Unless we slow down, stop, and look, it is very easy to rush past what are obvious signs of water stress.
How is the lawn looking? Most of our city trees are planted in the lawn. The trees and the lawn are two distinct plants competing for the same water and nutrients. A stressed tree will take as much from its root zone as it can.
If most of your lawn looks okay but there is a large brown circle around the tree trunk, this means that the tree, in trying to get a drink, has removed the water from the turf.
Stand back and look at the tree itself. Does it look tired? Wilted? Compare the top third to the lower sections. A water-stressed tree will look notably different in the top: drooping branches, closed up leaves, a dusty look. Because the upper section is the greatest distance from the water source, it will suffer the most.
Lastly, the most obvious and serous symptom is dead branches in the top of the tree. This shows that the tree has had to live with water stress for a period of years and is losing the battle. The water-stressed tree will not have the strength to deal with its enemies—insects and diseases—and stands a good chance of having these extra problems added to its weakened condition.
Any tree in Calgary that gets the water that it needs will be healthy, thick, a joy to see, and insect- and disease-free.
See my article Watering Calgary's Trees for more.