Emitter Clogging in a Reclaimed Water Irrigation Scheme with Controlled Suspended Load

Emitter Clogging in a Reclaimed Water Irrigation Scheme with Controlled Suspended Load


SA Water Centre for Water Management and Reuse, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia

School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia

31 December 2014
| Citation



Emitter clogging in drip irrigation system is a very common problem when used with reclaimed water. The suspended solids from treated water are the major elements of clogging mechanism. Coupled with bacterial biofilms, these particulates can reduce the flow of emitters by creating barriers in the flow path. This experimen-tal study reports the performance of three types of pressure compensated emitters in a drip irrigation system. Reclaimed water with a sediment load of 10 mg/l was supplied in the system throughout the experiment. Four ranges of particle sizes (0–45, 45–90, 90–150, and 150–300 µm) were used during 770 h of intermittent irriga-tion. Low flow emitters (<2 l/h) were found to be clogged quicker than those with higher flow rates. Though flushing of the system did not help in discharge recovery of the partially clogged emitters, it helped regain the lateral flow. The interior geometry of biofilms was found to be built only by the smaller particles. Larger par-ticles (>50 µm) only appeared around the perimeters of matured biofilms making the surface topography very coarse and undulating.


Clogging, emitters, particle size, reclaimed water, suspended load


[1] Capra, A. & Scicolone, B., Water quality and distribution uniformity in drip/trickle Irrigation systems. Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research, 70(4), pp. 355–365, 1998. doi: http:// dx.doi.org/10.1006/jaer.1998.0287

[2] de Kreij, C., Burg van der, A.M.M. & Runia, W.T., Drip irrigation emitter clogging in Dutch greenhouses as affected by methane and organic acids. Agricultural Water Management, 60(2),

pp. 73–85, 2003. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0378-3774(02)00159-2

[3] Clark, A.E., Subsurface Drip Irrigation: Wastewater Treatment Solution. Department of Bio-logical and Agricultural Engineering, Masters Thesis, Kansas State University, US, pp. 3–9, 2008.

[4] Nakayama, F.S. & Bucks, D.A., Water-quality in drip/trickle irrigation - A review. Irrigation Science, 12(4), pp. 187–192, 1991. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf00190522

[5] Marshall, K.C. & Characklis, W.G., Biofilms, Wiley and Sons: New York, pp. 731–796, 1990. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0167-7799(91)90057-o

[6] Raunkjaer, K., Hvitved, Jacobsen, T. & Nielsen, P.H., Measurement of pools of protein, carbohydrate and lipid in domestic wastewater. Water Research, 28(2), pp. 251–262, 1994. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0043-1354(94)90261-5

[7] Keinänen, M.M., Korhonen, L.K., Lehtola, M.J., Miettinen, I.T., Martikainen, P.J., Vartiainen, T. & Suutari, M.H., The microbial community structure of drinking water biofilms can be affect-ed by phosphorus availability. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68(1), pp. 434–439, 2002. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/aem.68.1.434-439.2002

[8] Persyn, R.A., Lesikar, B.J. & Duan, X.J., Uniformity of domestic wastewater effluent application in a subsurface drip distribution system. Water Environment Research, 79(7), pp. 701–706, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/106143007x156808

[9] Lemon, K.P., Earl, A.M., Vlamakis, H.C., Aguilar, C. & Kolter, R., Biofilm development with an emphasis on Bacillus subtilis. In Bacterial Biofilms, ed. Tony Romeo, Springer: Heidelberg, Germany, pp. 1–16, 2008. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-75418-3_1

[10] Pennanen, T., Liski, J., Bååth, E., Kitunen, V., Uotila, J., Westman, C.J. & Fritze, H., Structure of the microbial communities in coniferous forest soils in relation to site fertility and stand de-velopment stage. Microbial Ecology, 38(2), pp. 168–179, 1999. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s002489900161

[11] Li, Y., Liu, H., Yang, P. & Wu, D., Analysis of tracing ability of different sized particles in drip irrigation emitters with computational fluid dynamics. Irrigation and Drainage, 62(3), pp. 340–351, 2013. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ird.1737

[12] Bucks, D.A., Nakayama, F.S. & Gilbert, R.G., Trickle irrigation water quality and preven-tive maintenance. Agricultural Water Management, 2(2), pp. 149–162, 1979. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/0378-3774(79)90028-3

[13] Ould Ahmed, B., Yamamoto, T., Fujiyama, H. & Miyamoto, K., Assessment of emitter discharge in microirrigation system as affected by polluted water. Irrigation and Drainage Systems, 21(2), pp. 97–107, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10795-007-9022-6

[14] Adin, A. & Sacks, M., Dripper-clogging factors in wastewater irrigation. Journal of Irriga-tion and Drainage Engineering, 117(6), pp. 813–826, 1991. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/ (asce)0733-9437(1991)117:6(813)

[15] Boswell, M., Micro-irrigation Design Manual, James Hardie Irrigation: El Cajon, California, pp. 3(1)–9(5), 1990.

[16] Ravina, I., Paz, E., Sofer, Z., Marcu, A., Shisha, A. & Sagi, G., Control of emitter clogging in drip irrigation with reclaimed wastewater. Irrigation Science, 13(3), pp. 129–139, 1992. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf00191055

[17] Li, Y., Liu, Y., Li, G., Xu, T., Liu, H., Ren, S., Yan, D. & Yang, P., Surface topographic charac-teristics of suspended particulates in reclaimed wastewater and effects on clogging in labyrinth drip irrigation emitters. Irrigation Science, 30(1), 43–56, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s00271-010-0257-x

[18] Trooien, T.P., Lamm, F.R., Stone, L.R., Alam, M., Rogers, D.H., Clark, G.A. & Schlegel, A.J., Subsurface drip irrigation using livestock wastewater: dripline flow rates. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 16(5), pp. 505–508, 2000. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13031/2013.5301

[19] Camp, C.R., Subsurface drip irrigation: a review. Transactions of the ASAE, 41(5), pp. 1353–1367, 1998 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13031/2013.17309

[20] Puig-Bargués, J., Lamm, F.R., Elbana, M., Duran-Ros, M., Barragán, J., de Cartagena, F.R. & Arbat, G., Effect of flushing frequency on emitter clogging in microirrigation with effluents. Agricultural Water Management, 97(6), pp. 883–891, 2010. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. agwat.2010.01.019

[21] Yavuz, M., Dem rel, K., Erken, O., Bahar, E. & Devec ler, M., Emitter clogging and effects on drip irrigation systems performances. African Journal of Agricultural Research, 5(7), pp. 532–538, 2010.

[22] Capra, A. & Scicolone, B., Emitter and filter tests for wastewater reuse by drip irrigation. Agricultural Water Management, 68(2), pp. 135–149, 2004. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. agwat.2004.03.005

[23] Burt, C.M., Rapid field evaluation of drip and micro-spray distribution uniformity. Irrigation and Drainage Systems, 18(4), pp. 275–297, 2004. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10795-004-2751-x

[24] Smajstrla, A.G., Boman, B.J., Haman, D.Z., Pitts, D.J. &Zazueta, F.S., Field Evaluation of Microirrigation Water Application Uniformity, Institute of food and agricultural sciences: Uni-versity of Florida, 1997.

[25] Keremane, G.B. & McKay, J., Successful wastewater reuse scheme and sustainable devel-opment: a case study in Adelaide. Water and Environment Journal, 21(2), pp. 83–91, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-6593.2006.00062.x

[26] Minasny, B. & McBratney, A.B., The Australian soil texture boomerang: a comparison of the Australian and USDA/FAO soil particle-size classification systems. Soil Research, 39(6), pp. 1443–1451, 2001. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/sr12139

[27] International Standard Organisation (ISO), Agricultural Irrigation Equipment-emitters and Emitting Pipe-specifications and Test Methods, ISO 9261:2004 (E): Geneva, 2004.

[28] Keller, J. & Karmeli, D., Trickle irrigation design. Transactions of the ASAE, 17(4), pp. 678–684, 1974. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13031/2013.36936

[29] Philip, J., What happens near a quasi-linear point-source. Water Resources Research, 28(1), pp. 47–52, 1992. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/91wr02600

[30] Shani, U. & Xue, S., Soil-limiting flow from subsurface emitters. I: pressure measurements. Journal of Irrigation & Drainage Engineering, 122(5), pp. 291–295, 1996. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1061/(asce)0733-9437(1996)122:5(291)

[31] Warrick, A.W. & Shani, U., Soil-Limiting flow from subsurface emitters. II: effect on unifor-mity. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 122(5), pp. 296–300, 1996. doi: http:// dx.doi.org/10.1061/(asce)0733-9437(1996)122:5(296)

[32] Gil, M., Rodriguez-Sinobas, L., Sanchez, R. & Juana, L., Procedures for determining maximum emitter discharge in subsurface drip irrigation. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineer-ing, 137(5), pp. 287–294, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(asce)ir.1943-4774.0000299

[33] Liu, H. & Huang, G., Laboratory experiment on drip emitter clogging with fresh water and treated sewage effluent. Agricultural Water Management, 96(5), pp. 745–756, 2009. doi: http:// dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2008.10.014

[34] Wilcox, J.C. & Swailes, G.E., Uniformity of water distribution by some under tree orchard sprinkler. Journal of Scientific Agriculture, 27, pp. 565–583, 1947.

[35] Bralts, V., Edwards, D. & Wu, I.P., Drip irrigation design and evaluation based on the sta-tistical uniformity concept. Advances in Irrigation, 4, pp. 67–117, 1987. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/b978-0-12-024304-4.50005-5

[36] Christiansen, J.E., Irrigation by Sprinkling. Bulletn 670. University of California, Agric. Exp. Stn.: Berkeley, California, pp. 121–124, 1942.

[37] White, D., Davis, W., Nickels, J., King, J. & Bobbie, R., Determination of the sedimentary microbial biomass by extractible lipid phosphate. Oecologia, 40, pp. 51–62, 1979. doi: http:// dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf00388810

[38] Smith, C.A., Phiefer, C.B., Macnaughton, S.J., Peacock, A., Burkhalter, R.S., Kirkegaard, R. & White, D.C., Quantitative lipid biomarker detection of unculturable microbes and chlorine exposure in water distribution system biofilms. Water Research, 34(10), pp. 2683–2688, 2000. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0043-1354(00)00028-2

[39] Li, G., Li, Y., Xu, T., Liu, Y., Jin, H., Yang, P., Yan, D., Ren, S. & Tian, Z., Effects of average ve-locity on the growth and surface topography of biofilms attached to the reclaimed wastewater drip irrigation system laterals. Irrigation Science, 30(2), pp. 103–113, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1007/s00271-011-0266-4

[40] Capra, A. & Scicolone, B., Recycling of poor quality urban wastewater by drip irrigation systems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(16), pp. 1529–1534, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2006.07.032

[41] Oliver M.M.H., Hewa G.A. & Pezzaniti D., Subsurface drip irrigation with reclaimed water: issues we must think now. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol. 168, WIT Press, 2012, ISSN 1743-3541, doi.10.2495/SI120171. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2495/si120171