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Installed by an older do-it-your-selfer.


It’s too much to manually water the lawns of a 15,000 sf property, and lawns without water turn brown, look or are dead, in Kaimuki, Hawaii.

So it’s time to build an irrigation system. PVC pipes and fittings have to be buried to protect them from UV. Galvanized steel pipe is heavy, labor intensive, prone to rust. With many unmapped existing shallow waterlines, I wanted to avoid running into them so judged it impractical to hire a backhoe or ditch digger to do the job..

In Hawaii, finding laborers to dig the trenches is difficult, or expensive, major considerations for an aged do-it-your-selfer. Anticipating a lot of digging for trenches and planting holes, I bought a Hilti digger/concrete breaker. Weighing about 30 lbs.costing about $1500, it has plenty of punch for the job.

Trying the tool, I happily dug for a while through very hard soil and tough Bermuda turf until I hit a shallow 1″ potable water line, The water erupted into a 15′ high geyser, totally covering me with red mud, and endowing me with a new respect for hidden utilities.

As a retired Landscape Architect with considerable design experience in irrigation, I mulled over the limiting considerations for my unique tropical automatic sprinkler system. My early conceptual layouts indicated most of the pipe runs could be concealed under existing eighty year old hedge rows, with the rotor heads to operate from the top of the hedges. This design is unique but as I plan to replace much of the lawns with plantings, having them high up and not on the ground, I predict, will work just fine. Small heads and/or drip lines will water smaller areas.

I decided to use copper pipe, which can be left exposed. As the copper should not be adversely affected by UV, it ages to a reddish brown color similar to the Hawaiian volcanic soil. Our system will automatically irrigate the property with large rotors, 17” to 35’ radius. To not encourage termites, all water will spray away from structures. Using copper throughout, may seem extravagant, but on our 15,000 sf property it has added only about $1000 -$2000 to the costs of pipe and fittings. I suppose the labor savings should compensate for the added costs and make the superior material worth while.

BBQ anyone?

I am slowly progressing with the installation of the system in the mornings and evenings to escape frying in the sun and should have it completed by November 2009, so I can leave my plantings to take a trip to the mainland.  Should you wish to see the installation, call (808) 732-1014 or come and visit us in Hawaii.

2 Responses to “An Automatic Sprinkler System For the Tropics”

  1. sjsue says:

    I heard that Aunty Helen, Uncle Hank and Linda had quite the time with you when you busted that pipe… they tell a much more colorful rendition of it… 🙂

  2. Linda says:

    Yes! And, of course, NOW I wish I had taken pictures of it because it would have been fun seeing them now!

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