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How to: Perform a "Bucket Flow Test"

A flow rate test is a very important element of designing a system, as it dictates how many sprinklers or lengths of dripline you can run on one zone. 

Here we give you the best, most accurate formula to find your flow rate, using just a bucket and a timer.

A flow rate test is a very important element of designing a system, as it dictates how many sprinklers or lengths of dripline you can run on one zone.

All irrigation methods require different operating pressures to work efficiently.

Roughly, most pop-up sprinklers require a pressure of at least 300kpa, garden sprinklers require at least 200kpa and dripline at least 100kpa. In order to determine how many pop ups, garden sprinklers or dripline can be run per zone, it is important to know the flow rate at the desired operating pressure.

For larger or more complicated applications, we recommend hiring our water flow and pressure tester device. For small applications, a simple "bucket flow test" will usually suffice.

To complete this test you will need:

  • a standard household bucket (generally at 9 litre capacity);
  • the garden tap you've nominated as your water source; and
  • your smartphone or stopwatch timer.

Firstly, remove any tap fittings from the tap, and turn the tap on full. Place the bucket under the tap and time - in seconds - how long it takes to fill completely.

Once you've got your bucket test results, use the formula below to work out your flow rate:


(60 ÷ Time (in seconds) x bucket size in litres

Let's say you filled your 9-litre bucket in 15 seconds.

Time (sec) = 15
Litres = 9
So according to our equation, we have (60 ÷ 15) x 9 = 36 Litres per minute.

To find out your flow rate in Litres per hour, multiply this by 60 (i.e. 36 x 60 = 2,160 L/hr)

If you are going to use more than one tap, you'll need to repeat this process for each tap separately. If you have different flow rates at different taps, make sure to mark this on your plan for us, as it may be an advantage to design the system around the tap with the best flow rate. 

Note: that some popup sprinklers use more than 900L/hr so if it takes more than 25 seconds to fill a bucket it may be impractical for you to water your lawn with sprinklers.

See the below video by Pope for a visual on how to perform the bucket test.

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