Drip Irrigation: Israel’s Water Miracle to the World

Israel is one of the leading names when it comes to farming and irrigation practices. Up to this day, it has continued developing technologies and solutions to address an array of challenges that other farmers face around the world.

One of Israel’s most significant contributions to the world is drip irrigation. It has not only transformed farming – it has indeed revolutionized farming, especially for areas facing drought or in arid conditions.

Drip irrigation is the most efficient system for delivering water and nutrients for growing crops. Overhead watering systems, such as sprinklers, spray water onto the plant leaves as well as the surrounding soil, wasting a lot of water in the process. The excess water encourages weeds to grow in or around the plants. 

Besides, sprinklers also waste a lot of water through evaporation, as the mist dissipates into the air.

By contrast, drip irrigation delivers water and nutrients directly to the plants’ root zone, in sufficient drips, at the right time, so that each plant gets the nourishment it needs. When the plants get the water and nutrition it needs, it leads to higher-quality crop yields. The reason is that a consistent watering cycle provided by the drip irrigation system reduces plant stress, which means healthy plants producing more fruits and vegetables.

Drip irrigation significantly helps reduce water loss due to evaporation. It also prevents weeds from growing in or around the plants, because the water is being delivered to the plants that you choose to water. Drip irrigation can save up to 30% – 50% of the water that you would normally use to water your garden or landscape.

A big “Eureka!” moment

Micro-irrigation is a type of irrigation system that delivers water to plant crops with less pressure, volume, and flow than traditional sprinklers. Drip irrigation is one of the types of micro-irrigation. 

While the origins of micro-irrigation may have gone back to ancient times, from where and when did the idea of drip irrigation come about?

The story of drip irrigation began with a man named Simcha Blass, a Polish immigrant to Israel. He was an engineer by profession.

Blass had a “Eureka!” moment while observing trees in Israel’s southern Negev desert, noticing that one tree was significantly bigger than the adjacent trees. He began digging around the apparently dry and parched surface. To his amazement, he discovered a leaking water pipe underneath that was supplying water to the bigger tree. It was enough for him to realize that a few continuous amounts of dripping water, going directly to the roots, were sufficient to make a significant difference in plant growth.

In 1948, while he was in England, Blass purchased used pipes from a local fire department. He brought the pipes home to Israel and reconstructed them into a water supply system that would provide water to 11 Israeli settlements and Arab Bedouins in the Negev.

After several years of experimenting, Blass finally came up with a device. It used water pressure and friction to control the distribution of water emitted from holes drilled in a plastic tube, in regular intervals. That ushered in the era of modern drip irrigation.

A company named Netafim (which means “drops of water” in Hebrew), founded in 1965, was the first to commercialize Blass’s idea. It became the global pioneer in smart drip- and micro-irrigation, revolutionizing the agricultural industry. Since its founding, Netafim has been one of the most dependable suppliers in Israel and other countries around the world, providing the highest-quality drip irrigation products available.

Benefits of drip irrigation

Beyond water and energy conservation, drip irrigation’s other benefits include increased plant health and better crop uniformity. With less water leaking into the soil, there will be less weed competition and more nutrients will go to your crops.

Drip irrigation’s flexible design allows it to deliver water to plants more efficiently than any other type of irrigation. Because it uses flexible pipes, you can place them closer to plants that need more water or further away from other plants that require less water (drought-tolerant plants). Ultimately, drip irrigation allows farmers to save money on fertilizers, utilities, and labor.

Through drip irrigation, Israel has blessed many other citizens around the world, especially in areas where water is scarce and population density is high, enabling them to conserve water while helping them to bring in higher crop yields.