Make your own dam-powered irrigation system from scratch

This dam-powered irrigation system is very environmentally friendly.
Christopher McFadden

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Do you have some crops to irrigate but don't to run up high costs from powerful pumps? Then why not build your own passively-powered one using a dam?

Follow this guide to find out how.

diy non-powered irrigation complete
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started.

Materials and gear needed

  • Plastic tubing
  • Plastic valves
  • Plastic pipes, joints, elbows, and caps
  • Ball bearings
  • Old bricks
  • Hot glue gun
  • Basic tools

With all your gear in hand, let's get on with the build.

Step 1: Break ground and raise a dam

The first step is to excavate a trench and pit to make the main water storage system for the irrigation system. With that done further excavate the trench in preparation for building a small dam. 

With that done, mix up your cement and grab your old bricks. Then, begin to build up the dam one course of bricks at a time. Once you reach the second course, cut a small length of uPVC pipe and cement it into place within the dam structure. 

diy non-powered irrigation system dam
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

Once the main dam structure is erected, you can then skim the entire structure in cement as needed. 

Step 2: Build the irrigation system

While the dam is drying, we can now build the main irrigation system. Take your elbows, lengths, caps, and t-joint of plastic tubing.

Then cut out more lengths of plastic tubing using your angle grinder as needed. With that done, make the irrigation system sprinkler spinning mechanisms using parts of plastic pipe, a ball bearing, and t-joints as shown in the video. 

For the sprinkler heads, take lengths of plastic tubing, and mark out a series of holes along its length. Then drill holes through the pipe as needed. 

diy non-powered irrigation heads
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

Once done, insert the dispenser heads into the t-joints and seal each end with a plastic cap. Rinse and repeat to make as many sprinkler heads as needed for your irrigation system.

Step 3: Assemble the irrigation system proper

Next, take some more lengths of wide-bore plastic tubing and head back to your dam. With that done, drive some piles into the ground downstream from the dam to support a length of pipe from the dam's main outlet pipe. 

non-powered irrigation system pipes
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

With that done, extend the pipe as needed, and begin to gradually reduce the bore of the pipe as you go. Also, begin to assemble the main irrigation system as required. Drive-in supporting piles as needed, and extend the pipework to where it is needed. 

Ensure you add a basic water valve just before the start of the sprinkler section of the irrigation system. This will allow you to turn the system on and off at will. 

diy non-powered irrigation dispensers
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

At regular intervals, install your sprinkler heads as required too using more t-joints. This will likely require you to measure and cut lengths of pipework as you go. 

Step 4: Prepare the ground for your crops

With the irrigation system now basically complete, we can now prepare the ground under and around the system ready for planting. Using a hoe, churn up the soil where you want to plant some crops or other plants. 

Remove large stones and other detritus you may excavate as you go. With that done, plant or sew seeds for whatever it is you wish to grow around the irrigation system.

This can be flowers, crops, or any other plant you want. Space out the plants as needed so that they can grow properly. 

diy non-powered irrigation plant
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

Step 5: Finish the system

With the main dam and irrigation system now complete, we can finish installing the final touches. Return to the dam, and pile into place a piece of foam to act as a basic filter. 

With that done, you can now flood the reservoir behind the dam ready to fire up your irrigation system. 

non-powered irrigation system filter
Source: Mini Construction/YouTube

When the water reaches the foam, it will take a little while to flood the irrigation system behind the valve, so don't worry too much if it takes a while to completely flood the reservoir. 

Once the reservoir is flooded, your dam-powered irrigation system is ready for its first test run. Open the main valve, and the water pressure provided by the mass of water behind the dam should be more than enough to run your irrigation system so long as the water is in the reservoir!

As the system runs, check for leaks and plug them in as needed. 

Happy days.

If you enjoyed this dam-based project, you might enjoy making another?  

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