Paul Mueller Company Academy

Water Management for Your Vineyard


As we all know, weather can be fickle. Just look at the vast extremes in California wine country over the past three years, 2016 was a drought, 2017 had massive wildfires, and 2018 was great growing and harvest conditions. We never know what the next year will bring so it is always a good idea to plan ahead and be prepared.

No matter where you live and nurture your vineyards, water will always remain a crucial part of the wine industry. Whether it is a shortage or a surplus, water management can be stressful for even the most seasoned growers. Here are 3 tips to help with water management:


 1.  Plan 

It has been said one glass of wine can require as much as  28 gallons of water. That can amass to a lot of water for your vineyard. Having a plan is the first step. Locate all available water sources, or potential water sources, around your vineyard so you have a plan in place if one source dries up or fills up. There are several water sources on a vineyard including:

Dry Grape Field With Water TankWells - groundwater is pumped for vineyard use

Stock Ponds - “mini-reservoirs” used for water storage

Storage Tanks - can hold thousands of gallons of potable water

Wastewater Treatment Plants - to reuse water, many Northern CA wineries have implemented their own treatment plants

A typical grape vine needs 25-35 inches (635-890 millimeters) of water a year, occurring during the spring and summer months of the growing season, to avoid stress.2 


2.  Monitor

grape leaves with water transpirationYou could use a high tech tool like a pressure chamber or an infrared thermometer to take stock of your vines’ moisture or go low tech like Bryan Rahn, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist and vineyard consultant suggests: “Even feeling the grape leaves with your hands is a great diagnostic tool. When leaves are actively transpiring, they are cool to the touch,” explains Rahn. “Leaves are like little swamp coolers – evaporation has a cooling effect.” Not only are the leaves cooler, but, so is the fruit. Cooler clusters yield superior fruit quality.2  This is an easy way to assess if your vines have the proper moisture.



 3.  Irrigation 

Audit where the water is going and have a conservation plan spelled out for all employees on the farm. Just small shifts in the way you do daily operations can make a big difference. When well-known winery J. Lohr went through an expansion, they implemented a water conservation plan on their farm. 

stainless steel wine tanks

Shortage Suggestions:

  • - implement low flow nozzles on hoses
  • - install timers on the water at the barrel washing station
  • - stop the constant washing down of grape skins off the concrete

Surplus Suggestions:

  • - store moisture from rainfall in storage tanks to use at a later date 3
  • - implement a ground cover to absorb excess water and avoid erosion 4


Prepping your staff and farmstead for proper water management can help stop your profits from drying up.



2  T. Stevenson "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" p. 15 Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN 0-7566-1324-8


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Topics: Winemaking equipment


About Paul Mueller Company Academy

Teaching and sharing ideas has long been part of the rich heritage at Paul Mueller Company. We have almost a century of quality craftsmanship guiding the way we apply new learnings. Paul Mueller Company Academy is a collection point for those learnings, so we can collaborate and grow more successful together. You will find articles, blogs, guides, infographics and more dedicated to furthering knowledge for all, in the world of stainless steel processing equipment solutions. We hope you enjoy!