Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Daily water use of redcedars


The sneeze-causing, water-guzzling, fire hazard eastern redcedar is no stranger to Oklahoma.

Landowners have been fighting the seemingly never-ending war against the invasive species for years with no end in sight. In regards to water, an often-quoted value is 30 gallons a day for how much a redcedar tree actually uses.

However, researchers in the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University say that number is not exactly accurate after measuring for an entire year the daily water use of 19 redcedar trees growing on upland sites in north-central Oklahoma.

“Redcedar trees can use more water than prairie vegetation because the evergreen redcedar uses water all year and has greater quantities of leaf biomass which releases water to the atmosphere,” said Rod Will, silviculture professor in OSU’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

With funding from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Giulia Caterina, graduate student, Will and Chris Zou, ecohydrology assistant professor, found that, on average, redcedar trees used six gallons of water per day.  However, the issue is much more complicated than a single value because water use depended on many factors.

“Water use increased with tree stem diameter, tree canopy size, air temperature and soil moisture,” Will said.

For example, they found a 12-inch diameter tree used a maximum of 42 gallons on a day with high temperature and ample soil moisture, but only one gallon on a day during a dry period in winter.  In contrast, a 2-inch diameter tree used a maximum of seven gallons per day and a minimum of 0.2 gallons per day.

“When the water use of individual trees was scaled up to the stand level, we calculated that dense redcedar woodlands have the potential to cycle almost all incoming precipitation back to the atmosphere,” Will said. “Therefore, we likely will have less water in our streams if the invasion by redcedar is allowed to continue.”

And, the battle continues.


Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
145 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: sean.hubbard@okstate.edu

Read the original article here.

Read more about redcedar issues in Oklahoma on our "redcedar" page.

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