Drip and overhead irrigation can each meet farmers' needs.

With a changing climate, dependable weather patterns are a thing of the past. 

An extremely wet month may very well be followed by an extremely dry month. Predictability is at an all-time low. Furthermore, even though climate change will bring us more rain year-to-year, the pattern will likely be of intense storms, separated by very dry periods.

Irrigation will be needed more and more to provide resilience to the uncertainty of climate change and ensure even, consistent water for crops through the growing season. A recent study projected that irrigation demand in Vermont would increase steadily over the next several decades to be 1.75 times what it currently is (Two Challenges for U.S. Irrigation Due to Climate Change by McDonald and Girvetz, 2013).

Choosing an Irrigation System

Farmers learning about produce safety and microirrigation systems.

When choosing an irrigation system, there are advantages and disadvantages of different types and the specific situation should be a prime consideration.  If suitable for your application, drip irrigation can be a great choice compared to overhead or sprinkler systems for a number of reasons.

Drip systems:

  • Use less water
  • Reduce pest/disease problems because it doesn’t wet the entire plant or cause soil splash
  • Can be integrated with fertilizer applications (i.e., fertigation) for improved timing and placement, as well as cost savings
  • Can help avoid requirement of potential new produce safety rules that may require testing of overhead irrigation water

Recommendations when Considering Watering Systems for Your Farm

Irrigation for tomato plants.

Low-Cost Irrigation Sand Filter

image description: white pipes and a black drum  labeled with red indicating direction of the water to be filtered and how this item works

Want to make use of your pond water for irrigation?  In order to utilize ponds and other surface water sources for micro-irrigation, use of a sand filter is recommended. Commercial models require a substantial, and sometimes cost-prohibitive, investment for small or beginning farmers.  A need exists for an effective low-cost alternative, which Farming & Climate Change Coordinator Joshua Faulkner has developed and can be downloaded here.

Download detailed plans for the construction and operation of the filter (PDF file).



July 2020 Story on Irrigation on UVM's Across the Fence

More Irrigation Resources

Irrigation pipe in the field.

Seeking more information on irrigation and other elements of water management for Vermont farms?  Here are some resources and opportunities:


Interested in knowing more about the Center's work or do you have a question we haven't answered here?  Contact us via email or 802-656-5459 and we'll do our best to help.