96201 - Irrigation Systems

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Clean water and sanitation

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the teaching the student knows the rationale for the sustainable and efficient agricultural water resources management, the characteristics of collective and farm irrigation systems, the methods for evaluating the irrigation needs and the irrigation techniques, as well as the design criteria of irrigation systems. In addition, the student will have to acquire specific knowledge on the maintenance and operation of irrigation systems, with particular reference to pressure irrigation systems, also considering the use of unconventional water resources and technologies for precision irrigation.

Course contents

Formative Pre-requirements

The student must own a basic preparation thanks to studied principles of mathematics and physics and to some notions of agronomy and agro-meteorology, herbaceous cultivation, arboriculture, as well as agricultural hydraulics. These pre-requirements are provided by the respective courses of the Bachelor’s degree.

Unit 1 – Agricultural water resources management and irrigation concepts (15 hours)

  • Base notions of agricultural hydraulics and soil hydrology.
  • Introduction to irrigation.
  • Irrigation classification according to agronomic and territorial criteria. Necessity and convenience of irrigation practice. Water quality.
  • Sources of water supply in agriculture and alternative sources (wastewater reuse). Collective irrigation and reclamation consortia. Water efficiency at different scales.
  • The irrigation needs and methods.

Competences acquired in unit 1

The student matures the mastery of language and concepts necessary to understand the subsequent units. The student understands the different classifications of irrigation, collective irrigation and water quality also according to the different sources of water supply.

Unit 2 - Theory behind the design of irrigation systems (25 hours)

  • Irrigation management at farm level.
  • Gravitational methods of irrigation: sliding, infiltration, submersion.
  • Pressurized irrigation methods: sprinkling (constituent elements of a system, types of farm systems, self-propelled systems, types and characteristics of sprinklers) and micro-irrigation (constituent elements of a system, types and characteristics of drippers, filtration systems, fertigation).
  • Hydraulic components: energy groups, pumps, filters, pipes, materials.
  • Selecting and dimensioning of the irrigation systems.
  • Maintenance and operation of the irrigation systems.
  • Performance evaluation of irrigation systems.
  • Innovative technologies for precise irrigation: decision support systems (SSD), automation and IoT, use of OpenSource systems.

Competences acquired in unit 2

The student is able to choose the most suitable irrigation technique for the different farm realities as he/she will have acquired the correct technical approach with respect to the irrigation systems explained during the frontal lessons. The student can evaluate the performance of irrigation systems and knows the most innovative technologies available.

Unit 3 - Examples of irrigation system design and educational visits (20 hours)

  • Example of design of an irrigation system: sizing and hydraulic verification of a farm irrigation system equipped with a pump system and determination of the energy consumption of the pump. Field evaluation of the performance of irrigation systems. Computation of the coefficients of uniformity distribution and field evaluations.
  • Didactic/field visit

Competences acquired in unit 3

The student knows the criteria for sizing an irrigation system. Given a specific context, the student is able to choose the most suitable irrigation system for the purposes of proper business management and with a view of water saving. The student will also have the opportunity to understand, in the field, the functioning of all the component parts of an irrigation system.


  • CAPRA A., SCICOLONE B. 2007. Progettazione e gestione degli impianti di irrigazione. Criteri di impiego e valorizzazione delle acque per uso irriguo. 2a edizione: 2016, Edagricole. ISBN 978-88-506-5494-9
  • Lamm, F. R., Ayars, J. E., & Nakayama, F. S. (2006). Microirrigation for crop production: design, operation, and management. Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-444-50607-8
  • Santelli P. (2019). Impianti di irrigazione a goccia per le colture agrarie. Dario Flaccovio Editore. ISBN 9788857910277
  • Santelli P. (2016). Metodi e tecniche di irrigazione del verde ornamentale. Dario Flaccovio Editore. ISBN 9788857905792

    Books for further study:

  • Allen, R. G., Pereira, L. S., Raes, D., & Smith, M. (1998). Crop evapotranspiration-Guidelines for computing crop water requirements-FAO Irrigation and drainage paper 56. Fao, Rome, 300(9), D05109.

Teaching methods

The course is divided into three didactic units administered during frontal lectures. The first two are theoretical and are necessary to face the third practical unit. These will be carried out through frontal lessons supported by slides. The third unit provides examples and comments of practical cases relating to the design of an irrigation system complete in all its parts. The necessary material will be provided, and the participation of the class will be requested, possibly through group work. The didactic material will be provided both on paper and on digital format. Specific seminars and insights are planned based on the availability of experts and specific needs.

Assessment methods

The verification of the learning consists in an oral examination and it will focus on all the units of the course. The student will be asked to answer questions of a theoretical and practical-applicative nature. During the exam, he/she may be asked to solve small problems and carry out short sizing calculations. Students wishing to take the examination in English are allowed; in this case a communication is needed in advance.

Teaching tools

Slides, blackboard, computer, didactic material.

Office hours

See the website of Attilio Toscano