To be useful for indicating plant water needs, any measure of plant stress should be closely related to some of the known short- and medium-term plant stress responses, such as stomatal closure and reduced rates of expansive growth. Midday stem water potential has proven to be a useful index of stress in a number of fruit tree species. Day-to-day fluctuations in stem water potential under well-irrigated conditions are well correlated with midday vapor-pressure deficit, and, hence, a nonstressed baseline can be predicted. Measuring stem water potential helped explain the results of a 3-year deficit irrigation study in mature prunes, which showed that deficit irrigation could have either positive or negative impacts on tree productivity, depending on soil conditions. Mild to moderate water stress was economically beneficial. In almond, stem water potential was closely related to overall tree growth as measured by increases in trunk cross-sectional area. In cherry, stem water potential was correlated with leaf stomatal conductance and rates of shoot growth, with shoot growth essentially stopping once stem water potential dropped to between −1.5 to −1.7 MPa. In pear, fruit size and other fruit quality attributes (soluble solids, color) were all closely associated with stem water potential. In many of these field studies, systematic tree-to-tree differences in water status were large enough to obscure irrigation treatment effects. Hence, in the absence of a plant-based measure of water stress, it may be difficult to determine whether the lack of an irrigation treatment effect indicates the lack of a physiological response to plant water status, or rather is due to treatment ineffectiveness in influencing plant water status. These data indicate that stem water potential can be used to quantify stress reliably and guide irrigation decisions on a site-specific basis.