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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.

Tree growth on terraces

Tree growth on terraces

Details   6 years of growth from 2014 - 2020
As part of our water wise landshaping, we spent considerable effort creating a number of hand dug terraces as well as having a mini digger create an access track on a sloping amphitheater.
Terraces allow for improved rainwater infiltration, reducing runoff and erosion while also making it easier to work and harvest from the trees.
This particular area is a nice sun trap and has excellent cold air drainage. The biggest challenge is the dry and, in some places, the blackberry. Here we grow a number of fruit tree types with a focus on apricot.
Date   April 28, 2020
Tags     terrace  trees  progress  zone3 
Living on contour - working with water flow

Living on contour - working with water flow

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 
Making a wetland in a stony hole

Making a wetland in a stony hole

Details   Attempting to modify water holding capabilities of this stony soil by introducing water loving, wetland plants while actively removing the rocks and gravel. Pulsing diverted run off water and pigs through this muddy hole is slowly shifting the conditions and creating a new assortment of niches. Amplify the diversity!
Date   September 11, 2018
Tags     2018  September  Water  Pond 
Raised woody swale / hugelkultur construction

Raised woody swale / hugelkultur construction

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, each 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, 2014
Tags     swale  digger  water  hugelkultur 

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, 2015
Tags     earthworks  spiral  construction  water 

Rainfall catchment calculator

Rainfall (mm)
Catchment Area (hectares)
Cubic meters ?
Litres ?
  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
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, 2013
Tags     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 
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