02.18.13Alan Harris

Water Conservation on National Drink Wine Day

Wine and Water ConservationResearching water conservation while sipping wine. A side benefit of blogging at night and on the weekends.

Is it just a coincidence that President’s Day, February 18th is also National Drink Wine Day? Does the thought of the current or past Presidents increase your urge to drink wine either in celebration or in an attempt to drown your sorrows? (I imagine some of my friends on Facebook will chime in with answers to that question!) Can water conservation enthusiasts consume fermented grapes without feeling guilty?

Why would anyone feel guilty about drinking wine?

When water was cheap and readily available some wineries had ratios of 20+ gallons of water used to generate 1 gallon of wine. In recent years the amount of water used has been reduced to 6:1 ratio. Today the green standard is a little less than 3:1, but many wineries are producing wines at much lower ratios.*

If you drink wine from California, the odds are in your favor that the answer to the question about guilt free consumption is YES! According to the Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance over 68% of wine grape acreage and 62% of wine case production participates in a voluntary self-assessment program for sustainable practice which includes water conservation.


Since most of the wines I drink are from California, I started checking websites…starting with the wine I was drinking while writing this post.

La Crema

To start, La Crema irrigates their Estate vineyard with treated and recycled process water and carefully monitors the water stress on their vines which has reduced the overall water use in the vineyards. They have also gone a step further by planting trees along creeks and maintaining the riparian areas bordering the vineyards to promote the health of watershed areas. Stream restoration is one of the goals for Trout Unlimited in their Water and Wine partnership.

After La Crema, I decided to check on their parent company, Jackson Family Wines which also owns Murphy-Goode and Hartford Family wines.


Let me start by saying Kendall-Jackson Wines kicks some serious sustainability butt! This post took a lot longer to write than most simply because I became engrossed in reading several of their 92 blog posts about sustainability.

When it Comes to Smart Irrigation Kendall-Jackson is B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T! On VCTO we write a lot about smart irrigation, but Kendall-Jackson takes it several steps further. They start with a smart irrigation system to reduce water use in vineyards by applying the appropriate amount of water at the correct time. Sensors are located in the vine canopy to measure temperature, wind and humidity which determines the evapotranspiration rate. But it doesn’t stop there, additional sensors are placed at various depths in the ground to determine soil moisture, ensuring they do not irrigate beyond the root zone.

Finally, a weather monitoring station forecasts future weather. For example, if rain is expected in a couple of days the system will adjust water application accordingly, ensuring the vine receives the appropriate amount of water and allowing Mother Nature to supply the rest.

What kind of bottom line water results can be achieved?


Results have been exceptional for J.Lohr. In 2003, it took over 3 gallons of water to produce a gallon of wine. Through sustainability and best management practices they were able to steadily decrease their water use for 3 out of the following 4 years except in 2006. The reason for this was 2005 was an abnormally large harvest and processed in a short period of time which reduced the ratio for that year. By 2007 they were down to a 1.2:1 ratio.

Water Used To Produce a Gallon of Wine










Gallons Water/Gallon Wine











Future Water Conservation and Wine Sustainability

Thanks to a generous $3 million pledge from Jackson Family Wines, the University of California, Davis is building the 8,000 square foot Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building. The research facility will allow UC Davis and the wine and food industries to reach a new level in conservation of water, energy and natural resources. According to Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, “[the facility] will be used to explore new research areas, including ways to maximize water conservation in wine production and sequester carbon dioxide during fermentation.” With the industry leading technology, they will be able to produce wine with a net-zero carbon footprint and develop workable models are for the wine industry.

I can drink to that!

If this post made you crave a glass of wine, but you happen to be at work, I created a special board on Pinterest to help you through the day. If you are already home and enjoying a glass of wine, please swallow before reading or you may find wine coming out of your nose.

So raise your glass of wine and toast the water conservation efforts of the wine industry then tell us what wine you used for toasting in the comments below or on our Facebook page, Water Bloggers.

If you liked this post about water conservation in the wine industry, please share it with a friend, leave a comment, check out my previous posts , follow me on Twitter @h2oMatters and

Follow Me on Pinterest

Full Disclosure: I have wine club memberships to several Jackson Family Wines including La Crema, Murphy-Goode and Hartford Family Wines. While no wine endorsements or considerations were offered for the writing of this post, they would be have been readily accepted. Cheers!


* Water Footprint Footnote: Water use is a very different measurement than the Water Footprint which is a scientific calculation taking into consideration all components of the production cycle. For example the water footprint of a pair of jeans is about 2,900 gallons.  The largest component of the water footprint of a pair of jeans is in the growing of the cotton including the fertilization, harvesting and cleaning.

Interesting tidbit about water footprints: over 20% of the water footprint of the United States is from outside the country. This is from the production and manufacturing of imported products.


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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations and Regional Sales Leader for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Monday, 7:27 TimbersPrairie

    RT @ValleyCrest: Water Conservation on National Drink Wine Day: Is it just a coin… #watermanagement

  2. Monday, 11:39 Lauren Hanson

    Fantastic! I had no idea the wine industry was so smart. And the bonus Pinterest board is hilarious, Alan! Thanks for the Monday humor.

  3. Monday, 11:46 Alan Harris

    Lauren – I was pretty impressed with the sustainability in the wine industry too. The Pinterest board was a lot of fun to make. One of the funny unrelated comments I ran across was, “I don’t suffer from insomnia, I just have an iPad.” Oh so true when it comes to research and reading for the blog posts…and Pinterest.

  4. Monday, 1:16 LiteracyandTech

    Hey, Alan! You outdid yourself on that post!! I kept wondering how Martha had gotten so adept in her wine knowledge since she didn’t get much training on the subject at home…although maybe they taught it at her high school…the North East Grape Pickers.
    Anyway, kudos to a very informative post. Who would have thought about how much water goes into making wine.
    Hm, in the NT Jesus turned the water into wine…I’ve always pictured it being a 1:1 ratio.
    Hm, again…if it takes that much water to make wine, wouldn’t it be just as good to drink the water? Guess I’ll go get a cold bottle now.

    • Monday, 1:30 Alan Harris

      >I am glad you liked the post and happy to help with Martha’s post graduate education. Water is always good, but sometimes wine is better…like at a wedding in Galilee. Oh, the extent sons will go to please their mother.

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