Sub surface drippers or sprinklers?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 21 January 2020 

If you're thinking about putting in a watering system for your lawn, you might ask the question, “should I use underground drippers or sprinklers?”

It’s a good question and almost everyone asks it when planning their irrigation project.

Let me start by saying that both will do the job of delivering water to your lawn and both can be installed as a DIY project – even if you don’t have much irrigation experience. Both work, both have been proven and successfully used for decades. It isn’t so much a question of which one is better but rather which one suits you and your circumstances the best. There are naturally pro’s and con’s for each so let’s talk some more about each.  

Sub Surface Drippers: 

This is a system where you install a network of drip pipe underneath your lawn. The drippers are built into the pipe and there is usually one every 300mm along the pipe. They each emit around 2 or 3 litres per hour of water (depending on the brand you use). We use a drip pipe called Rainbird Coppershield. Its a chemical free system meaning you don't have to flush chemicals through to pipe to keep roots out. 


  • Drippers are more water efficient. This type of system uses less water than sprinklers to do the same job – up to 50% less! Because the water is delivered straight to the root zone, there is no run off, no evaporation, no wind blowing the water off target




  • Dripper systems are more expensive to buy upfront than sprinkler systems – up to 3 times more. This can be a deterrent to choosing this type of system but if you consider the savings you’ll make in the amount of water you use, a dripper system will eventually claw back that extra upfront cost. We recon the return on investment is around 4 years.
  • The drippers can get clogged with lawn roots over time. This is called root intrusion and happens because the lawn roots will always want to hunt down the water source. The traditional way to prevent this is by injecting chemicals down the pipes to kill off the roots.  Because we don’t like the idea of this, we sell a brand of dripper pipe called Rainbird Coppershield. Through its innovative design, they guarantee it against root intrusion without the use of chemicals.
  • Drippers cannot be used to water a new lawn since there are no roots down at the dripper depth,

Have a look at our video on How to install Underground drippers



Using pop up sprinklers is the traditional method to water your lawn. There are a few different types of sprinklers that are available including:

  • Regular spray sprinklers   
  • Rotator type sprinklers
  • Gear drive sprinklers

Pop ups are typically installed around the outside edge of your lawn and spray water from overhead to water your lawn. They


  • Are cheaper to install than drippers (about 1/3 of the cost)
  • Because they spray water from the top, its easier to water in fertiliser and chemicals when you have pop ups.


  • Use more water than drippers. Because water is sprayed from overhead, the water can be blown around, it can evaporate and it can run off.
  • Can over spray into areas where you don’t want water (decks, paths , pools, driveways etc)

Have a look at our video on How to install sprinklers


Overall, as I mentioned earlier both these watering methods will do a good job of watering your lawn. My first choice is to use drippers because of how they conserve water however with emerging new sprinkler technologies, sprinklers are not too far behind. 

If you would like any help planning an irrigation system, we'd love to help you. Click here to find out more about our free planning service. 



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