How low can you go? That’s the question a lot of growers are asking as the drought situation grows grimmer and the pressure mounts.

“Prior to the June 14 mandate for 15 percent reductions in diversions from the Russian River system, we had worked with the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) to implement grower meetings on water conservation strategies for vineyards,” says Nick Frey, president, Sonoma Winegrape Commission. “Mark Greenspan was hired by the agency to lead these discussions, and presented suggestions to about 100 growers at our June IPM meetings. After the mandate was given, we redoubled our efforts.”

Grower response to pleas for further conservation efforts has been mixed, but mostly well-received by those actively involved, according to Frey.

“I’d say grower response has been very positive at these meetings. I think at this point, we feel grape growers are pretty efficient in their irrigation. But there is likely room to further improve efficiencies and perhaps to alter timing of irrigation — more nighttime irrigation to reduce evaporative losses and to reduce the diurnal swings in Russian River flows. SCWA has cut the surplus flow to buffer any swings in water use, so spreading out demand over 24 hours will help them.”