The weather patterns of the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers) strongly influence how water is partitioned between transpiration and evaporation and result in a specific strategy of water use by ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) in this region. To investigate how year-round water fluxes were partitioned in a young ponderosa pine ecosystem in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, water fluxes were continually measured from June 2000 to May 2001 using a combination of sap flow and eddy covariance techniques (above- and below-canopy). Water fluxes were modeled at our study site using a biophysical model, FORFLUX. During summer and fall water fluxes were equally partitioned between transpiration and soil evaporation while transpiration dominated the water fluxes in winter and spring. The trees had high rates of canopy conductance and transpiration in the early morning and mid-late afternoon and a mid-day depression during the dry season. We used a diurnal centroid analysis to show that the timing of high canopy conductance and transpiration relative to high vapor pressure deficit (D) shifted with soil moisture: during periods of low soil moisture canopy conductance and transpiration peaked early in the day when D was low. Conversely, during periods of high soil moisture canopy conductance and transpiration peaked at the same time or later in the day than D. Our observations suggest a general strategy by the pine trees in which they maximize stomatal conductance, and therefore carbon fixation, throughout the day on warm sunny days with high soil moisture (i.e. warm periods in winter and late spring) and maximize stomatal conductance and carbon fixation in the morning through the dry periods. FORFLUX model estimates of evaporation and transpiration were close to measured/calculated values during the dry period, including the drought, but underestimated transpiration and overestimated evaporation during the wet period. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.