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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Drainage Materials and Their Evolution

Author
item Fouss, James

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Water Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: June 7, 2002
Publication Date: July 3, 2002
Citation: Fouss, J.L. 2002. Drainage materials and their evolution. Encyclopedia of Water Science.

Interpretive Summary: An historical account of the development of drainage materials in the World is given. In more recent history, for over 100 years prior to about 1970, clay and concrete tile were the most common for agricultural drainage. Smooth-wall plastic pipe was used to a limited extent in the late 1950's for subsurface drains, but with the development of the extrusion-molding machine for corrugated-wall plastic tubing in Germany about 1961, the switch from smooth-wall to corrugated-wall plastic pipe for drains was begun. Pioneering research by USDA-ARS scientists in the mid-1960's led to the development of corrugation design method for high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic tubing for a drain conduits which was light-weight (1/25th the weight of clay tile) and coilable for ease in handling and installation. The first commercial production of HDPE tubing for drains in the U.S was in 1966. By the mid-1970's more than 75% of agricultural drains were corrugated plastic tubing, and about one-half of the HDPE tubing was installed with high-speed laser-beam-controlled plow-type equipment, rather than the slower trenching machine. By 1983 about 95% of agricultural pipe drains in the U.S. were HDPE plastic tubing, and 93% in Canada. Today corrugated drain tubing is used in many subsurface water management applications, such as, septic tank leach fields, highway berm drains, athletic sites, residential lots, etc.

Technical Abstract: An historical account of the development and innovation of drainage materials in the World is given. For more than 100 years prior to 1970, clay and concrete tile were the most common for agricultural drainage. Smooth-wall plastic pipe was used to a limited extent in the late 1950's for subdrain conduits. With the development of the extrusion-molding machine for corrugated-wall plastic tubing in Germany about 1961, the revolutionary development of and change to corrugated plastic tubing for drains was begun. Pioneering research by USDA-ARS scientists in the mid-1960's led to the development of corrugation design theory and method for high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic tubing for drainage conduits which was light-weight (1/25th the weight of clay tile) and coilable for ease in handling and installation. The first commercial production of HDPE tubing for drains in the U.S was in 1966, and ASTM Standards for their structural performance were developed by 1974. By the mid-1970's more than 75% of agricultural drains were corrugated plastic tubing; about one-half of this tubing was installed with laser-controlled high-speed plow-type equipment, rather than the slower trenching machine. By 1983 about 95% of agricultural pipe drains in the U.S. were HDPE plastic tubing, and 93% in Canada. Today corrugated plastic tubing is used in many non-agricultural drainage and water management applications.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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