Many people do not realize it, but slow-drip irrigation systems are arguably the most significant innovation in water efficiency since, well, waterless urinals became popular in the 1990s. Drip irrigation, sometimes called trickle irrigation, allows water to drip slowly to the roots of plants through a network of valves, pipes, and tubing.
Although a type of drip irrigation using clay pipes dates back to the late 1800s, the innovation received its greatest attention about 60 years ago when an Israeli farmer noticed a green grass oasis around a tree in the middle of the desert. Wondering why, he noticed a nearby water pipe was dripping small amounts of water next to the tree.
That was the first time, as the story is told, that anyone realized that just a small ongoing drip of water would be enough to irrigate vegetation. Typically, vegetation was and is still today irrigated using sprinklers that release water intermittently for set periods of time. But much of the water with sprinklers evaporates before it has a chance to irrigate plants and much is wasted. When it comes to water efficiency, sprinklers leave a lot to be desired.
After the farmer’s discovery, scientists in Israel, Germany, and here in the United States began experimenting with the drip irrigation concept. They found it can be effective and reduces water waste considerably.
This idea of using water efficiently applies to waterless urinals as well. Instead of one or more gallons of water used to flush a small amount of urine down the drain, we now know that by using an effective water-free urinal system, no water is needed. This is a far more efficient way to use water and saves water for the people and places that need it most.