The best type of pop ups for saving water.

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 5 October 2023 

With hot and dry weather forecasted ahead, what is the best by way of pop-up sprinklers to ensure you get the best performance while using the least amount of water?

Last week on ABC Talkback gardening radio, I mentioned that optimising your pop-up sprinklers can really help to save water and, at the same time, ensure that the water you do apply penetrates deep into the soil.

All pop-up sprinklers weren’t created equal, and many types you can buy today are inefficient and guzzle more water than needed to water your lawn.

The good news is that there are a few options on the market today that use around 30% less water than traditional pop-up sprinklers. They offer an amazing level of flexibility in how you adjust them to suit your area and best of all, they can be easily retrofitted into most existing pop-up sprinkler bodies, meaning you don’t have to replace your existing irrigation system to take advantage of them.

The best type of sprinkler for saving water

The type of pop-up sprinklers I want to focus on today are called rotary nozzles or stream rotors. The most well-known ones are called Rainbird R-Vans and Hunter MP rotators.

Both these types of sprinklers are purchased in a nozzle-only format and, as I said earlier, can be easily screwed onto most sprinkler bodies.   You can simply unscrew an existing nozzle on a pop-up and replace it with one of these beauties. The whole process wouldn’t take more than a minute.  

Their biggest advantage is that they deliver water slowly and evenly. As a general comparison, a traditional pop-up set on a half-circle radius can use up to 5 litres per minute, while a stream rotor can use as little as 1 litre per minute. This is really significant! It allows the water to soak in slowly, leading to less runoff, and because they operate with low pressure, you can run more of them at the same time, resulting in fewer watering zones. If you’re already struggling with low pressure on your property, converting to stream rotors can really help you get maximum coverage compared to traditional pop-ups.

In a nutshell, stream rotors:

  • Use a low amount of water to operate – typically 30% less than traditional pop-ups
  • Spray water in rotating streams or fingers, providing much better performance in windy conditions.
  • Can spray from 2.5 to 9 metres
  • Are adjustable in their arc and radius
  • Operate better in low-pressure situations.
  • Result in less run-off

In my opinion, while stream rotors cost more to buy than traditional pop-ups, I think they are worth the investment. After designing watering systems for many years, these types of sprinklers offer long-term value when you consider the water savings. There is nothing else like them for delivering water only where you need it and in a way that is best utilised by your lawn. 

If you have any questions regarding irrigation or need some help planning a system,  please give us a call on 8298 0555 or send an email to We’d be happy to help!

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