What is Irrigation? Its Types, Methods, and Importance in India

25 May 2023
What is Irrigation? Its Types, Methods, and Importance in India Article
India has an irrigated land of 35 per cent and groundwater is the main source of irrigation in India. With groundwater resources declining in India, the attempts are being made to recharge groundwater in addition to adopting other irrigation types like canals, micro irrigation, and drip irrigation.

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Irrigation is an essential aspect of agriculture that involves the non-natural application of water to crops to help them grow. It is a crucial technique that is used to overcome the limitations of rainfall and ensure that crops have access to adequate water throughout their growth cycle. In this blog, we will discuss what is irrigation, the different types and methods of irrigation, and the importance of irrigation in India.

Irrigation Definition: What is Irrigation?

If you are troubled by the question ‘what is irrigation’, check out this section. Irrigation involves providing water to crops artificially to enhance their growth and development. It involves the controlled water application to the soil in the required quantity and at the right time to ensure that crops get the necessary moisture for growth and development.

Irrigation, in other words, involves replacement of rainwater with other sources of water. It is primarily important in arid areas and areas with inadequate rainfall like Thar desert of Rajasthan in India.

Irrigation in India

India is a vast country in terms of area and population. It supports 18 per cent of world population on 2.4 per cent of earth’s surface and 4 per cent of water resources. Indian agriculture is the main occupation of 58 per cent of population and it consumes 80 per cent of groundwater, which is the mainstay of irrigation in India. With declining groundwater resources in India, there is a need for other sources of irrigation in India like canal irrigation, and drip & sprinkler irrigation, among others.

It is in this light; different types of irrigation are needed in India to provide water to crops during periods of low rainfall and drought. It helps to increase agricultural productivity and ensure food security for our growing population.

In addition, multiple types of irrigation in India assist in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change, such as rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

Different Types of Irrigation in India

There are different types of irrigation in India used for agricultural purposes. The most common types of irrigation systems include well & tube well irrigation, canal irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, surface irrigation and drip irrigation.

Well & Tube Well Irrigation

These methods of irrigation are most prevalent irrigation type in India. Well as a type of irrigation is widely used in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, among others. On the other hand, tube well irrigation is practiced in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, etc.

Deep wells as compared to shallow wells are more suitable for irrigation as they do not dry up during less rainfall season. On the other hand, where groundwater is available, tube well is used to irrigate large area of land.

These irrigation methods are simple to use, less expensive, and independent source. They also are versatile as they can be used whenever possible.

Tank Irrigation

In this irrigation type, a tank is constructed either with a stone or by developing a small bund of earth. The tank is constructed over a stream. This method is widely prevalent in plateaus region of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, and Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Canal Irrigation

Canal irrigation is effective and an important source of irrigation where the land is fertile and have low relief. In addition, there must be a perennial source of water and large command area to practice this irrigation type. This method is largely practices in states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

Sprinkler Irrigation

This method involves the use of sprinklers to distribute water over the field. Sprinklers can be mounted on the ground or in an overhead system. They can be programmed to deliver water at specific intervals and rates. Water is supplied to the sprinklers through a network of pipes or tubes. The sprinklers then distribute the water over the field, like rain.

This irrigation system offers benefits like uniform water distribution, reduced water wastage and higher crop yields.

Drip Irrigation

Drip or trickle irrigation is a modern method of agriculture irrigation in which water is slowly and precisely dripped onto the roots of plants using pipes and tubes. This method carries water directly to the roots of the plants and minimizes water loss due to evaporation, runoff, or wind.

In a trickle irrigation system, small holes or emitters are placed at intervals along the tubes, and water is released through them in controlled quantities.

Traditional Methods of Irrigation

Traditional methods of irrigation are the ancient techniques used by farmers for thousands of years to water their crops. These methods have not evolved much and are still employed in many parts of the world, including India. Some of the traditional methods of irrigation used in India are:

Furrow Irrigation

In this irrigation system, small channels or furrows are dug between the crop rows, and water can flow through them to irrigate the plants. The water flows along these furrows and seeps into the soil, providing moisture to the crop roots. This irrigation system is an efficient and cost-effective way to irrigate crops.

Basin Irrigation

This technique is not suitable for crops; instead, it can irrigate taller trees and bushes. Concrete or clay is used to create a raised platform close to this vegetation. The water flows through drains made to connect these platforms while irrigating the land.

Check Basin

The check basin method of irrigation is a technique that involves dividing a field into small, level basins or check areas connected with a small drain. The water is then allowed to flow from the highest point and flood these basins. After the soil has absorbed the water, the basins are drained, and the process is repeated.

Strip Irrigation

Strip irrigation is a type of agriculture irrigation method that involves applying water to crops through narrow strips of land rather than flooding an entire field. The process of strip irrigation begins with creating small channels or furrows between the rows of crops. Water is then applied to these furrows, providing a slow and steady water application directly to the plant roots.

Modern Methods of Irrigation

Modern methods of irrigation have evolved over time and are now more efficient, precise, and sustainable than traditional methods. Other than drip and sprinkler irrigation method (discussed above), the modern methods also include subsurface irrigation and centre pivot irrigation.

Subsurface Irrigation

This method involves the placement of pipes or tubes underground to deliver water directly to the root of plants. Water is supplied to the buried pipes or tubes through a network of supply pipes. The water moves through the holes in pipes to infiltrate the soil.

It has several advantages over surface irrigation, including water conservation, improved plant growth and reduced soil erosion.

Centre Pivot Irrigation

This method involves a rotating arm that delivers water to the crops in a circular pattern. This is a highly efficient method of irrigation that can be automated for precise water delivery.

It is named for the circular motion of the irrigation system, which pivots around a central point, resembling the shape of a large arm with sprinklers attached.

This irrigation system allows for precise water application and minimizing water loss.

Importance of Irrigation

Irrigation is an essential feature of agriculture and has several benefits. The importance of irrigation is as follows:

  • Sustainable Agriculture: Irrigation can help promote sustainable agriculture by reducing the reliance on rainwater, which is often erratic. Farmers can plan their crops and water usage more efficiently by using irrigation, reducing waste and conserving water resources.
  • Drought Mitigation: Irrigation helps mitigate the effects of drought by ensuring crops have access to moisture, even in areas with low rainfall. In areas where rainfall is scarce, irrigation can help mitigate the effects of drought. By providing crops with sufficient water, irrigation ensures they do not wither and die during dry spells.
  • Water Conservation: Irrigation helps to conserve water by ensuring that water is applied efficiently and precisely where it is needed. It reduces the wastage of water, which is a major issue in irrigation practices in India.
  • Improved Crop Yield: Irrigation provides crops with the necessary amount of water to grow and thrive. Without irrigation, crops would have to rely on rainwater, which is often unpredictable and insufficient in quantity. Irrigation helps ensure that crops receive the right amount of water at the right time, leading to better yields and quality of produce.


In conclusion, irrigation has a vital role in agriculture as it is essential for the healthy growth of crops. Multiple methods and types of irrigation systems can be used to provide water to crops. The importance of irrigation cannot be overemphasized. We have provided more than 5 methods of irrigation, and farmers need to adopt efficient irrigation techniques to ensure that their crops get sufficient water during their growth.

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