Water management

Low cost, low impact, low tech. and sustainable, rainwater harvesting and landscaping for resilient gardening.

Using contouring, terraces and swales for rainwater harvesting, infiltration and in-ground water catchment. Small scale landscaping for improved water retention, reduced irrigation needs, maximising usable land surfaces and aesthetic improvement.

Inverted spiral

Details  Combining the popular parmaculture herb spiral concept and the desire to squeeze the maximum amount of edge into a given space, this excavated spiral will serve as an in ground water catchment feature and plant based sun trap with additional aspects such as shaped earth seating and potential fire 'pit'Date  May 24, 2015Tags    earthworks  spiral  construction  water 
Water for everyone

Water for everyone

Water is the essence of life and as such we need to be thinking about how to make best use of what we have. The most important work we do is to implement solutions for capturing, storing, diverting and infiltrating rainwater and runoff. This helps build soil, nourish crops, prevent erosion, minimise drought and reduce or eliminate irrigation needs.
Learn about the art of land shaping for natural rainfall catchment, a practical guide to water harvesting and management.
Make the most of the water available, direct surplus water away from wet areas towards dry areas.
Use swales and terraces to halt the flow of water and nutrient off the land and allow it infiltrate and hydrate the soil.
August 21, 2014  water  swale  contour 

Rainfall catchment calculator

Rainfall (mm)
Catchment Area (hectares)
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  water  calculator 
The way of the swale

The way of the swale

A swale is a permaculture technique designed to improve water catchment and retention on slopes. Applicable to varying scales, a swale is basically a ditch or terrace created along a contour line with the removed soil piled on the downhill side. As rainwater drains down the slope above is is caught and absorbed by the swale. Plantings made along the swale will have access to additional moisture for extended period.

My first attempt at a small swale follows the contour line on a northwest facing slope below an existing track. Because of the small size I was able to dig this by hand over 2 periods, using an A-frame level. Over the course of the next few months we will be scattering the kitchen scraps along the length for the chooks to work over, adding their manure and nutrients from the kitchen. Finally it will be planted up in a variety of different plants from ground covers, bulbs and shrubs to fruit and firewood trees.
June 12, 2011  swale  earthworks  rain water 
Woody swale / hugelkultur

Woody swale / hugelkultur

Details  We used the opportunity of having a small excavator on site recently to construct 5 wood filed raised growing mounds on contour.
This technique is often called hugelkultur and exploits the ability of rotten wood to absorb and hold amazing quantities of water which is later made available to plants growing nearby.
The end result was 5 mounds about 7 meters long and half a meter high packed with a full trailer load of rotten willow logs and a wheel barrow of pig manure.
An assortment of fruit trees and berry shrubs has been planted along side in various locations to capitalise on the moisture, slow release of minerals and micro-climate effects of wind, shelter, sun and shade.
Date  July 25, 2014Tags    swale  digger  water 
Rota takes a bath in a swale

Rota takes a bath in a swale

Details  We have a number of swales out where the pigs live but this one is their current favourite. Nothing better for the pig than a mud bath on a hot sunny day. It seems that the action of the pigs hooves (feet) and their rolling in the mud actually help seal the swale so it holds water better.Date  October 31, 2013Tags    pig  swale 
Brimming with rain

Brimming with rain

The first serious winter storm hit with a snowy wet blast and dumped over 75mm in 24 hours. This is exactly the kind of situation the extensive network of swales was built to handle. During the day I made numerous excursions out into the cold to assess and marvel at how the water was collected, channelled and redirected, distributed and absorbed.June 20, 2013  winter  snow  swale 
22 years of swales in Arizona

22 years of swales in Arizona

I discovered this location while searching for the Page Ranch on Google Earth. The pattern of swales was quite unmistakable. Looking back in time it is interesting to see how these land formations go back at least as far as 1996 but since that time they have become less evident with many of the planting patterns fading back into the desert.
Creating a pond

Creating a pond

Having recently purchased Gaias Garden, a book on back yard permaculture, I was inspired to create a water 'feature' to extend the diversity of the local biological system.
This is an unlined pond dug by hand down into the clay and has a water depth of no more than about 40 centimetres when full.
May 29, 2011  pond  water  frog  fish 
Yurtopian swales

Yurtopian swales

I provide some basic guidance and marked out a short length of swale for Deschia and Daniel. This will infiltrate excess water from their yurt roof into the nearby garden.May 10, 2013  yurt  swale  garden  teach 
New garden swale

New garden swale

I still got the swale itch and couldn't stop myself creating a new excavation along the top edge of the garden as a second stage catchment for roof run off. This version has a layer of cardboard that spent a week on the floor under the chook perches.May 07, 2013  Swale  garden 
The top swale

The top swale

Finally, after discovering and experimenting with swales for some time, I have rerouted the rainwater from the house roof to a newly created TOP SWALE. The new excavations run in a fairly straight line through the orchard and overflow into the recently reconfigured garden swales.January 18, 2013  rain  water  swale