Farm advice: Closing out your irrigation season

In addition to protecting against freezing damage, it’s important to consider the potential for wind damage during winter and spring storms

Stephen McNally

As winter approaches, irrigated farmers and growers must prepare for the season by reviewing their irrigation systems and making necessary adjustments. At IrrigationNZ, we understand the importance of maintaining a fully functioning irrigation system and encourage irrigators to start preparing now.

Freezing is one of the most significant threats to irrigation systems during the winter season in colder inland regions. Water left in above-ground pipes and equipment can freeze and cause the ice to expand, potentially damaging pipes and other components. To prevent this, irrigators must drain all water from the system and ensure that pipes and equipment are vented properly. Additionally, above-ground components can be insulated against the cold to minimize damage and ensure that the system is ready to use again in the spring.

Winter is an ideal time to conduct repairs and maintenance on the irrigation system. Irrigators have the opportunity to identify and address any issues that may have arisen during the past season, including repairing damaged pipes and equipment, replacing worn-out components, and conducting routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning filters and checking for leaks. By addressing these issues now, irrigators can ensure that their irrigation systems are in top condition when needed.


In addition to protecting against freezing damage, it’s important to consider the potential for wind damage during winter and spring storms. Strong winds can cause above-ground irrigation components to become loose through vibration or even be blown over, which can result in costly repairs and downtime. To prevent this from happening, it’s recommended with pivots and other large irrigation equipment to properly point, park, and anchor securely all above-ground components. It may be necessary to position irrigation systems in a sheltered down wind direction to minimise the impact of strong winds. Taking these additional steps can further safeguard irrigation systems during the winter months.

Another crucial opportunity over the winter season is reviewing past irrigation water use data. This information can provide valuable insights into the efficiency of the irrigation system and help identify areas where improvements can be made. By analysing this data, irrigators can make informed decisions about how to optimise their irrigation systems for the upcoming season, potentially saving water and energy and reducing costs.

Reflecting on changes to irrigation management plans for the next season is an essential part of good management practices. By evaluating the successes and challenges of the past season, irrigators can identify areas where changes may be needed to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the irrigation system. This could include adjusting irrigation schedules, using different irrigation methods, or implementing new technologies to improve water management.

At IrrigationNZ, we recognise the importance of good winter season work plans to the long-term effectiveness and productivity of irrigation systems. By taking the necessary steps to protect and maintain these systems during the winter months, irrigators can ensure they are ready to use when needed and avoid costly repairs and downtime. We encourage irrigators to work with irrigation professionals to ensure that their systems are serviced properly and that any necessary repairs or upgrades are completed to the highest standard.

In conclusion, optimising the efficiency and effectiveness of irrigation systems is an essential part of ensuring their long-term health and productivity. By protecting against freezing damage, conducting repairs and maintenance, reviewing past water use data, and reflecting on changes to management plans, farmers can prepare their irrigation systems for the upcoming season. At IrrigationNZ, we remain committed to providing farmers with the support and resources they need to make the most of their irrigation systems, both now and in the future.

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