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Why measure water potential?


An ecologist installed an extensive soil moisture sensor network to study the effect of slope orientation on plant available water. He collected reams of soil moisture data but ultimately he was frustrated because he couldn’t tell how much of the water was available to plants. He’s not alone in his frustration. Accurate, inexpensive soil moisture sensors have made soil moisture a justifiably popular measurement, but as many people have discovered, a good hammer doesn’t make every soil water problem a nail. Water content can only tell you how much water you have. If you want to know how fast it can move, you need to measure hydraulic conductivity. 

If you want to know whether it will move and where it’s going to go, you need water potential.

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Why measure water potential?


An ecologist installed an extensive soil moisture sensor network to study the effect of slope orientation on plant available water. He collected reams of soil moisture data but ultimately he was frustrated because he couldn’t tell how much of the water was available to plants. He’s not alone in his frustration. Accurate, inexpensive soil moisture sensors have made soil moisture a justifiably popular measurement, but as many people have discovered, a good hammer doesn’t make every soil water problem a nail. Water content can only tell you how much water you have. If you want to know how fast it can move, you need to measure hydraulic conductivity. 

If you want to know whether it will move and where it’s going to go, you need water potential.