Ok, I’ve come up empty from asking this question of the few engineers I know, so I realized I should resurrect my Straightdope account to tap into some creative thinkers.
Olla irrigation pots are terracotta pots that are not glazed and, thus, porous. They are buried in the ground up to a narrow neck that allows them to be filled with water. Over the course of a few days the water in the pot seeps into the ground. The alleged benefits are that this prevents water lost to evaporation, is less likely to water seeds of weeds that are on the surface of the soil, reduces labor from watering as often, etc.
However, terracotta is fragile, bulky, not frost resistant, etc. Ollas that I’ve seen cannot provide water to plants more than a couple of feet away from the pot. (Some people make more affordable ones about of gluing two flower pots together and closing off one drainage hole and using the other drainage hole as the input point. Still, the same problems apply.)
So, here’s the question: If the water and labor saving advantages are real, as well as the benefits of providing water below the surface for roots, is there a fabric or similar materials that could survive several years in the ground, is affordable, can be easily folded and unfolded onto a frame, and would allow water to slowly enter the ground?
I’m thinking, fellow do-gooders, of a device that low-income farmers on small plots could use to save water and labor after installation to irrigate larger spaces than a clay pot can. Perhaps it would be a long tube that you put a foot or so deep in a trench between your crops. Then you fill it with water at one end and stop when water comes out the other…(also helps with knowing if the tube has silted up).
Make sense? Any ideas of an affordable fabric or material or whatever that would fit the bill? If you say reverse osmosis material, can you explain how complicated that is, how expensive, what additional tech in need to make it work, and if it fits the other requirements?