Water Index WI (R900/R970) was used for the estimation of plant water concentration (PWC) by ground-based, reflectance measurements. Reflectance and PWC were measured for adult plants growing in the field throughout an annual cycle and in potted seedlings submitted to progressive desiccation. The species studied were characteristicly Mediterranean: Pinus halepensis, Quercus ilex, Quercus coccifera, Arbutus unedo, Cistus albidus, Cistus monspeliensis, Phillyrea angustifolia, Pistacia lentiscus and Brachypodium retusum. WI was significantly correlated with PWC when all the species were considered together, and with almost all the species considered individually, especially when a wider range of PWC was obtained by extreme dessication of experimental plants. The correlations increased when normalizing WI by NDVI. The wavelength of the trough corresponding to water absorption band tended to shift from 970-980 nm to lower wavelengths 930-950 nm with decreasing PWCs. Infrared measurement of plant temperature and T leaf - T air provided worse assessment of PWC. A simple radiometer measuring plant reflectance at 680, 900, and 970nm could speed up the measurement of PWC, and be useful in wildfire risk evaluation and drought assessment. © 1997 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.