Water status traits have been proposed as criteria for drought tolerance improvement in several species especially in bread wheat, oat and barley. In order to test this possibility in durum wheat, in 1995 and 1997, a collection of 144 genotypes from different geographical origins was cultivated under rainfed Mediterranean conditions in Montpellier (southern France). Relative water content (RWC), osmotic potential (OP), as well as leaf morphological traits, grain yield (GY), total above-ground biomass and harvest index (HI) were measured. Large genotypic variations were observed for all traits. Differences between the 2 years were also noticed for all the traits which could be attributed to differences in water availability between the 2 growing seasons. The correlation analysis has revealed significant positive associations between water status traits and both GY and HI within and across years. These results suggest that genotypes which can maintain higher water status and then higher transpiration rates during grain filling, are more efficient in dry matter partitioning to grain and hence higher yield. Heritabilities of water status characters were higher than those of productivity traits. Our results emphasized the value of RWC and OP as criteria for durum wheat grain yield improvement under rainfed Mediterranean conditions. Relationships between RWC, OP and flag leaf morphological traits are also discussed.