Irrigation and Water Use in the Vineyard

Irrigation system in vineyard


Agricultural irrigation continues to improve with new technologies.  In Lake County, most winegrape growers use drip irrigation as well as other technology to maximize the water that is applied.  The Lake County Winegrape Commission has been at the forefront in educating Lake County growers with helpful tools and other information.  Check out the videos and other materials on this page for more.

In today’s highly competitive wine market, Lake County growers are using the latest water management technology to maximize grape quality and to keep their operations sustainable. “Our philosophy used to be: apply water until the grapes started to soften and we started to get color, and then we would more or less cut the water off and let them drift into harvest without irrigation. But we found over the years that it was better to not give them any water before color, reduce the berry size, and that would improve quality and get them under moderate water stress as soon as possible…” – Bryan Rahn, Coastal Viticultural Consultants


Randy Krag formerly of Beckstoffer Vineyards explains how drip irrigation “provides a precise and uniform amount of water, exactly the amount of water that we think the vine needs in a particular period.” He says that vineyard owners used to water vines “a whole lot more than we do now.” However, he says, “it turns out vines don’t need anywhere near as much water as we were giving them, say, thirty years ago… Drip irrigation allows us to reduce the amount of water that we use and to give only as much water as we think is necessary for high-quality fruit.”
Bryan Rahn, from Coastal Viticultural Consultants explains the use of an instrument to measure vineyard water status. It’s the most accurate tool used for soil moisture, says Rahn, calling it “the gold standard for soil moisture measurement.” However, the tool does have limitations, which Rahn explains.

Dig Deeper:  Water Use Study  - Have you  ever wondered how much  water a grapevine uses?  Glenn McGourty, Winegrowing and Plant Science Advisor at UCCE Mendocino and Lake Counties conducted a study in Lake County  to find out.  Click here to read the results.