Water management

Water is a valuable and limited resource for grapegrowers. This page provides a wide range of resources to help growers use their water most effectively, achieving yield and quality targets despite seasonal fluctuations in water availability.

Irrigation efficiency practice change project

Vineyard water use efficiency

Water management plan

Water budget

Water quality

Irrigation system design, installation, monitoring and maintenance

Irrigation scheduling

Storage dam design, installation, monitoring and maintenance

Additional resources

Vineyard water use efficiency

Vineyard water use efficiency (WUE) describes the relationship between production (e.g. tonnes of grapes) and the amount of water used to grow the crop (e.g. megalitres). Reducing water use without compromising yield or quality will increase WUE and improve total vineyard profitability. Developing and maintaining a water management plan, as well as using a seasonal water budget will help growers optimise WUE. The following article describes methods for measuring WUE at different scales:

Water management plan

A successful water management plan provides information about current and projected (5-10 years) water use and water security (availability, quality and costs). It also provides information about where water use efficiency improvements can be made to help growers prioritise and allocate funding to the activities. The resources linked below provide information on developing a water management plan and making decisions about where the most effective improvements can be made in a vineyard.

Water budget

A water budget predicts how much water will be required to achieve the desired result (vine health, yield and quality targets) and when water is expected to be used during the season. The budgeted water use is compared with the actual water use regularly throughout the season to assess if the current water management plan is appropriate or whether more or less water is required.

Water quality

Irrigation water quality affects vine and soil health, as well as the performance of irrigation systems. Some important factors to consider include pH, chloride, suspended solids, hardness, sodium absorption ratio, electrical conductivity, biological oxygen demand, heavy metals, and other contaminants. Testing is necessary to ensure irrigation water is compatible with crop and irrigation system requirements.

Irrigation system design, installation, monitoring and maintenance

The design, installation and maintenance of irrigation systems has a significant influence on water use efficiency. Some important factors to consider when designing an irrigation system include soil type, grape variety and rootstock, yield and quality targets, delivery method, the capacity of system to deliver the appropriate volume of water within the appropriate timeframe, and the system layout. Monitoring for leaks and losses should be conducted regularly to identify and manage problems early. Regular maintenance is required to prevent problems and improve the operation and longevity of any irrigation system. The resources linked below provide information about measuring soil characteristics that affect water relations as well as information about designing and maintaining irrigation systems for vineyards and agriculture.

Irrigation scheduling

Irrigation scheduling refers to when and how much water is applied (i.e. the frequency and duration of irrigation applications). Good scheduling should meet the vines’ water requirements, avoiding over or under irrigating, to achieve yield and quality targets.

Storage dam design, installation, monitoring and maintenance

Effective storage dam design, installation, monitoring and maintenance has a significant influence on water use efficiency. Monitoring for leaks and seepage should be conducted regularly to identify and manage problems early. Regular maintenance should be conducted to prevent problems and improve the operation and longevity of the storage.

Additional resources

For further information or assistance, please contact the AWRI helpdesk on helpdesk@awri.com.au or (08) 8313 6600.