Sprinkler systems are designed and operated for efficient irrigation for a wide array of conditions. Sprinkler irrigation also facilitated the expansion of irrigated agriculture onto lands classified as unsuitable for surface irrigation. Sprinkler irrigation systems consist of a pump that is used to lift and pressurize water, a piping system to convey water from the pump to the lateral pipelines used to transport water across the irrigated field, and sprinkler devices to apply the water within the field. In some cases, the main line is subdivided into subdomains to convey water to portions of the field. Multiple laterals may be used if the field is large or if the field needs to be irrigated frequently. Sprinkler devices are installed at intervals along the lateral. Often a pipe called a riser is used to adjust the height of the sprinkler device to the desired height to avoid crop interference with the jet of water discharged from the sprinkler. In some cases, the sprinkler device is suspended below the lateral using drop tubes to minimize evaporation and drift of sprinkler droplets the proper spacing of sprinklers along the lateral is crucial to providing enough overlap of water from adjacent sprinklers to achieve uniform irrigation. Sprinkler laterals can be permanently installed as with solid set systems, or the laterals can be moved across the field. Laterals can be periodically moved from one location (often called a “set”) to the next location as with hand move systems or the laterals can move continuously with centre pivot and lateral move systems. When the sprinkler lateral is periodically moved across the field the distance between subsequent sets of the lateral must be narrow enough to provide for adequate overlap. Many kinds of sprinkler devices are available. Sprinkler devices come with a nozzle to control the discharge from the sprinkler. The diameter and shape of the nozzle and the water pressure at the nozzle control the rate of flow. The nozzle converts the pressure in the piping system to velocity upon discharge from the sprinkler. The speed propels droplets through the air to provide a wetted guide about the sprinkler. The design of the sprinkler device determines the diameter of coverage and the distribution of water within the wetted region.
As with any irrigation system, the sprinkler system must be laid out to conform to the boundaries of the field. The dimensions of the field physically or economically often dictate the type of sprinkler system to be used. Ultimately the components of the sprinkler system must be matched to irrigate efficiently and economically. An Inappropriate specification of any component will negatively affect the entire system.