Do You Know These 10 Water Management Terms

Water management requires an understanding of water, irrigation, soil, and how they all relate to one another as well as the understanding of important Water Management Terms. Soil provides support and the nutrient reservoir necessary for plant growth. Water is essential for plant life processes. Effective management of these resources for crops and landscapes requires growers and landscapers to understand relationships between soil, water, and plants. This relationship is significant to irrigation users that desire to use best management practices such as irrigation scheduling.

Understanding the 12 water management terms below will increase your understanding of the plant water and soil relationship and make you a better water manager. If you want extra credit, you can watch the video below from the Jain Irrigation Training Series. It features Dr. Franklin Gaudi from the Irrigation Training and Research Center at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Soil Texture

The most important water management term is soil texture. Sand, silt, and clay are the three primary particles found in soil.  Soil texture indicates the amount of each in the soil. For example, loam soil is 20% clay, 40% sand, and 40% silt.

Water Management Terms: Soil Texture

Here is a link to Web Soil Survey that shows you the texture of your soil once you put in your address.

Soil Structure

This is how the texture of the soil is put together.  The smaller parts of the soil assemble, creating a larger particle. How these larger sections of soil are assembled refers to the soil structure.

Water Management Terms: Soil Structure

Source: USDA / NRCS

Soil saturation

This is the point at which there is no air in the soil. All the spaces between the soil particles are filled with water.

Oven dry

Another interesting water management term is Oven Dry, this is when there is zero moisture in the soil.

Air dry

When water is present in the soil but not usable by plants.

Field capacity

This is the amount of water in the soil held by the soil—the remaining water left in the soil after it has been fully saturated and allowed to drain.

Permanent wilting point

When a plant reaches permanent wilting point, it can no longer recover from wilting.

Available water holding capacity (AWHC)

This is the difference between permanent wilting point and field capacity. 1.5 inches per sq ft for sandy loam soil. Here are a few other examples of AWHC for specific soils. This is of particular importance when determining how frequently to water. If you need an inch of water per week to replenish ET and have coarse sand, you will have to water more than once per week.

Soil TextureInches Available Water/Ft of Soil
Coarse Sand0.5
Fine Sand0.75
Loamy Sand1
Sandy Loam1.25
Loam1.50 – 2.0
Clay Loam, Silt Loam1.75 – 2.50
Clay2.0 – 2.40

Soil moisture depletion

The amount of water needed to return the soil to field capacity, an often overlooked water management term, the soil moisture depletion can be calculated with onboard sensors for an accurate result as well as just plain-math calculation if we had the ET values for a particular location. Jain Logic does provide this feature using both sensors and satellite imagery.

Soil moisture content

The amount of water present in the soil, just like soil moisture depletion this term can also be calculated with soil moisture sensors in the field using Jain Logic’s soil moisture monitoring feature, this helps the grower understand how much water is actually required in his or her field. 

Dr. Gaudi was a guest on the Jain Irrigation Training Series and discussed all these terms in great detail, and you can watch the training for free below. Please let us know what you think in the comments, and if you like the train, please subscribe to our youtube channel.


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3 Responses

  1. Good article! I wish my friends in the landscape industry would read and understand before they begin their landscape projects.

  2. Very informative knowledge, these steps r very useful for water saving and land saving

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