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Low Water Pressure In Sprinklers – 7 Culprits [+ How to Fix It!]

If you have low water pressure in sprinklers, we bet one of the seven dirty scoundrels is to blame!

Remember when your sprinkler setup was shiny and new, eager to keep your lawn green? What happened to those days? Now that the honeymoon’s over, the water casually dribbles out, leaving the farthest reaches of your lawn gasping. 

We commiserate with you and your lawn – sprinkler pressure drops (really) do suck! But we have an idea who might be behind it, so we’ve wrangled the usual suspects into a lineup. 

Once we’ve got the perpetrator safely behind bars, we’ll share some preventative tips to help keep these unwelcome guests from returning. 

OK, let’s get this show(er) on the road! Oh yeah, please fasten your seatbelt–there are lots of puns ahead. 

Low Sprinkler Pressure – The Usual Suspects!

Diagnosing low water pressure in sprinklers is challenging because there are so many things it could be. Dirty sprinkler heads, your lawn’s elevation, or even the human error of a not-quite-open valve may be behind the problem. 

The issue could also be citywide. Or due to a leaky pipe at the far end of your yard. Or – a leak that could invite all the neighborhood tree roots to the party! 

There’s an entire rogues’ gallery behind these issues, an unpleasant group we’ll introduce you to shortly.  

It may take a little troubleshooting to determine the exact cause, but we have some good news!

Everything you do on the path to solving the mystery will help ensure your water system achieves peak sprinkle. During any weekend, when you have a little spare time and space on your to-do list, why not knock out some preventive measures? It’s that – or remain indoors and listen to the kids bicker. 

But it’s your call!

(Yeah, we think we hear your sprinklers calling, too!)    

We’ve started with the easiest fix to the most complicated one so that you can save that leftover energy for better things. Like admiring and enjoying your lush yard from a reclining lawn chair! Or maybe that hammock you’ve been meaning to string up. 

And now, we’re displeased to present this miserable crew responsible for low water pressure in sprinklers.

garden irrigation system water supply pipeline configuration
Performing regular maintenance on your sprinkler and water irrigation system is the best way to fight low sprinkler pressure. Bar none! We also found an excellent monthly irrigation system checklist that we advise all gardeners to follow for maximum water efficiency. We found another helpful guide detailing winter preparation tips for sprinkler and irrigation systems. Improperly storing and maintaining your sprinklers over the freezing winter can wreak havoc on watering efficiency. So – we urge caution heading into the wintery weather!

Low Sprinkler Pressure – Culprit Lineup

Do you recognize any of these hoodlums responsible for low water pressure in sprinklers? If so – we’ll share how to reverse their damage. And return your sprinkler into a raging current!

The Culprit – Municipal Monte

Telltale sign: Look for low water pressure in sprinklers throughout your irrigation system – potentially including indoor water pressure!

Monte works for the man. And he’s not just keeping your sprinkler pressure down. He’s taking a cut from everybody in town!

If you’ve got low sprinkler pressure, check with your neighbors to see if they’re experiencing the same problem. It could be a citywide issue due to construction, a dip during peak hours when everybody’s watering, or even a summertime water shortage to blame.

The Cure

You know the saying: you can’t fight city hall. You can adjust your timer earlier to see if you can dodge sprinkler pressure during rush hour, but you may have to wait. 

Another thing worth trying is checking in with 411, your water company, or your city’s website to find out the extent of the problem and if there are any projections as to when water pressure might return.

If the low sprinkler pressure is due to new construction in the area (in other words, not likely to improve), you might consider replacing your sprinkler heads with low-pressure models. 

Companies Rain Bird and Orbit offer customer favorites custom-designed to work in low water pressure environments. 

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09/27/2022 10:58 am GMT

The Culprit – Daisy Oops

Telltale sign: All sprinklers work. But only at partial capacity!

Water line valves that only get used during winterization can get a little sticky, and Daisy’s an opportunist who takes advantage of human error. When you turned the water line on this spring, are you sure you opened it all the way? 

A stubborn handle can make it only seem like you did, and that will affect pressure on your whole sprinkler setup. 

The Cure 

It doesn’t get simpler than this! Try giving it another twist to be sure it’s on all the way. You’re now experiencing a humbling moment, to be sure, but one that’s equal parts relief. 

And while you’re at it, we advise checking your handles, nozzles, and connections. You see, Daisy’s got this sister named Lucy!

sprinkler system watering tulips and narcissus flowers
A well-maintained automated sprinkler system is our favorite way to maintain a lush lawn, green forage crops, and plenty of vibrant flowers. And foliage! But – if your sprinkler pressure is too low (or too high), or your sprinkler head gets broken, you risk wasting too much water. So – how often should you inspect your sprinkler for low-pressure issues? We nearly live in our garden and check ours daily! You don’t have to be that obsessive, though. Most reliable sources we can find cite that you should check your irrigation system monthly for clogged sprinkler heads, sunken sprinkler heads, and broken sprinkler heads.

The Culprit – Johnny Backflow

Telltale sign: If you notice decent water pressure inside – and weak water pressure outside, look out for Johnny Backflow!

Daisy’s also got a cousin named Johnny. (She has a big family.)

Johnny slings impressive fast-talk to make you only think you got the backflow preventer valves set right in the spring. Did you, though? That was a while ago. 

The Cure

As above, this is a simple fix worth a double-check, even though it can be a little embarrassing. No judgments here, though! We’re all guilty of these blundering sprinkler errors. 

The two valves should be fully parallel to their respective pipes when completely open. If you need to adjust them, open the horizontal pipe’s valve before the vertical.  

Read More – Best High-Pressure Hose Nozzel for Your Garden!

The Culprit – Nasty Nozzle Nick

Telltale sign: Just one of your sprinklers isn’t working. 

Nick is the original dirty rotten scoundrel. He sneaks soil into the tiniest places to rob your sprinkler of its oomph. Sometimes he’ll even clog your water line out of spite. 

The Cure

Try a quick scrub of the sprinkler head. Grab a bucket of warm water, a brush, your toolbox, and the manufacturer’s instructions for disassembling the head, if necessary.

While you’re right there, you may want to give the sprinkler’s pressure adjustment screw a counterclockwise turn to see if that helps, too. 

lawn sprinkler system maintenance
We read a startling statistic citing how up to 50% (half) of irrigation water can get wasted due to improper or low water pressure in sprinklers! We read that wind also plays a role in wasted water. It makes sense to us – wind blows the water away from the desired path. But – low sprinkler pressure isn’t the only problem. Your sprinkler pressure can also get too high! Since water shortages threaten our food supply and economy – we can’t tolerate one drop of wasted water. So – periodically double-check your sprinkler. Ensure that it covers the designated area uniformly. And evenly!

The Culprit – Elle E. Vation (Elevation!)

Telltale sign: Dead plants on the highest sections of your lawn

Ever tried pushing a rope uphill? You were feuding with Elle, just like your water pressure does. The typical sprinkler system is 45-60 psi, and even under ideal circumstances, you’re going to lose almost one psi per two feet of elevation just to science. And none of us are operating under ideal circumstances. 

The Cure

We don’t expect you to rent a backhoe and level your yard. Though we agree that would be fun, you’ll have to find another way to justify that.

If you’ve already checked for evidence of the previous culprits for low water pressure in sprinklers, you may need a more powerful pump for the entire system or a pressure booster pump installed in the higher-elevation sections of your yard. Or – you could supplement the sprinkler sections that aren’t getting enough water with conventional hose-fed lawn sprinklers.

Or you could surrender and stop fighting your sprinkler system and backyard terrain outright! 

How about landscaping the high points with something that requires less water, like a succulent garden, decorative gravel, and pavers, or one of those eight-foot Halloween skeletons? Forget we mentioned the other options. Go with the skeleton!

Read More – How to Xeriscape on a Budget!

The Culprit – Lenny the Leak

Telltale sign: Low pressure in a zone of sprinklers

When Lenny begs the judge for mercy and pleads that he’s just a product of his environment, he’s not wrong. Your sprinkler system is prone to annual freezes and thaws, earthquakes, nearby construction, and many other environmental issues that can weaken and break underground systems. 

The Cure

Do you know that adage, know when to call an expert? Now is a great time to use it. Sure! Uncle Steve is a great guy, but here’s a little secret. He doesn’t know quite as much about water systems as he pretends to. He might even make a future list of usual suspects.

Water leaks are expensive! They’re ecologically irresponsible. And worst of all, they’re keeping your backyard from being a lush wonderland in which you’re proud to have a brewski.

Don’t be afraid to call a plumber or sprinkler expert so you can enjoy the comfort of knowing this one has gets handled. Save Uncle Steve’s help when you need advice on BBQs or Camaros.  

garden strawberries with drip irrigation system
If you constantly battle irrigation repair and low sprinkler water pressure, there are other ways to water your garden! Some of our homesteading friends swear that drip irrigation is less hassling than conventional sprinklers. We also read that drip irrigation is 70% more efficient at saving water than traditional sprinkler systems. Since much of the USA is in a drought these days – drip irrigation could be a wise investment – especially if your sprinkler is wasting buckets of water!

The Culprit – Rita the Root

Telltale sign: Some of your sprinklers are working fine, while others are taking a break

We all love nature, but when nature invites itself into our water lines, it tests our patience! Rita is the worst guest, barging her way into your water line to get herself a cool drink.

The Cure

See above. You’ll want an expert to deal with this one. Someone with experience dealing with invasive tree roots can help prevent a reoccurrence.

Note that roots can wrap themselves around pipes and give them the big squeeze – a disaster in the making! 

Sprinkler Water Pressure Low? Here’s How to Prevent It

Now that we’ve given you a good look at the bad guys causing your low sprinkler pressure issues, here’s how to keep them that way.

Preventative Measures

  • Keep shutoff valves lubricated. Shutoff valves usually reside in areas prone to grime buildup, and you need them operating smoothly.  
  • Be sure to turn valves on slowly and gradually in the spring during post-winterizing. Activating them too fast causes tremendous stress on your sprinkler heads. A broken sprinkler will cause some water pressure issues.
  • Double-check all your connections in the spring. Rising and cooling temperatures can loosen things up. 
  • Keep grass trimmed and weeds short around the sprinkler heads. You know how plants like to drink straight from the tap. 
  • Install a specialized sprinkler for low water pressure. If your pressure is just low, or you’re sharing water pressure with others, these sprinklers are worth investing in.
  • Keep your sprinkler heads clean. It’s a miserable task, about as much fun as flossing. But give them a good scrub during the spring and fall. It’s a lot of work – but do it for your lawn’s sake!
low-water-pressure-in-sprinklers
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Read More – 25+ Ways to Make a Drainage Ditch Look Good!

Conclusion

With your crack troubleshooting skills and a few proactive measures, your sprinklers will operate at peak efficiency all summer long. 

They’ll work so well that your neighbors will thank you for watering their lawns too!

What about your sprinkler-fixing skills?

Got a hack for keeping your sprinklers spraying splendidly? 

Let us know in the comments!

Or – maybe you have a story about low sprinkler pressure or a busted irrigation system? Feel free to share!

Thanks again for reading.

And – have an excellent day!

Author

  • David lives in Minneapolis with a pair of elderly dogs for whom he’s composed over 450 nonsense songs. (And a domestic partner who’s had to hear every one of them.) He uses what little backyard space is available in an urban environment to grow a variety of vegetables while letting his lawn be consumed by crabgrass and neglect. Over the past 30 years he’s written about a variety of topics, from technology to relationships to sleep. But most of all, he enjoys writing about nature and the outdoors.