Optimal Design of Irrigation Systems and Methods

Criteria and procedures have been developed to improve the application of water by means of soil leveling, irrigation system design, control of water discharge, conveyance structures, and so forth.

Irrigation system design substantially affects water application efficiency and involves many variables and restrictions. Its main objective is to maximize benefits or minimize costs.

A successful irrigation system design must produce for a fixed set of resources a maximum return. To achieve this, an optimization model to support the design and operation of the water application system is required due to the large quantity of possible combinations of the design variables that satisfy irrigation conditions.

Irrigation methods have specific applications that are based on factors such as type of crop, soil type, topography, water availability, and water quality. The application efficiency of surface and pressurized irrigation methods depends on their design, management, and operation. Table 1 shows the application efficiency of various irrigation methods.

Essentially, any irrigation system with some degree of technification (technical improvement) performs better in crops and orchards than the traditional or flood irrigation. In general, properly designed surface irrigation systems with conveyance structures have efficiencies that

Table 1 Application efficiency for different irrigation methods

Irrigation method Application efficiency range (%)


Flood irrigation 10-30

Contour irrigation 30-60

Border irrigation 40-80

Furrow irrigation 40-85


Sprinkler irrigation 50-90

Microjet irrigation 60-95

Drip irrigation 65-95

compare favorably with pressurized systems. The latter have operational advantages and usually have high efficiencies. Selection of the method that best adapts to a specific site condition will depend on technical and economic factors and will be further discussed later on.

Well-designed and properly managed irrigation systems have the highest efficiency and water distribution levels, thus yielding a good production and high product quality. For the proper management and operation of surface irrigation systems, several support tools have been developed, including simulation models and control and conveyance structures. In the case of pressurized irrigation systems, major advances have resulted in greater automation in their operation, greater precision in their application, and the incorporation of chemicals for nutrition and disease control into the irrigation process.

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