Water as the Starting Point for Permaculture Design

by: EJ on 09/29/2017

Water - the giver of life - or the great destroyer.  Water controls the weather, the shape of our landscapes, the growth of our food, our health.  Next to air, it is the most important element for life. 

Hurricane Nasa

Without adequate supplies of water, life on earth is simply not possible.  It is one of the magic elements of our planet.

For Robert Barnes, author of the just released The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook: How to Design and Build Swales, Dams, Ponds and Other Water Harvesting Systems, water is the starting point from which all other permaculture site planning unfurls. 

Water-harvesting earthworks are an aspect of site design that can be the difference between a site that performs poorly and one that thrives. On damaged sites without  adequate water, the right earthworks can have unbelievable results. Few things are as exciting as watching a dying site come back to life as soon as the first rains hit the project site.


Swale construction at The Green Tree Foundation, Talupula, India

It is true that humans have done tremendous damage to the Earth. The destruction has been centuries in the making, and tremendous energy has been put into the destruction. Yet herein lies great hope for the future. It has taken colossal amounts of effort, energy, and time to degrade the planet to its present state. With a nearly infinitesimal portion of the energy and time needed to create the destruction, we can heal the damage that has been done. There is no law of nature that humans must be a destructive force on the planet. In fact, through our actions, we can greatly foster life while meeting our own needs. The simple beaver is able to create diverse habitats that become havens for all manner of plants and animals. While beavers are impressive, human beings have the power of creativity and a curiosity that provides us with greater and greater understanding of how nature works. We already have the knowledge to have a greater positive effect on the environment, and our knowledge is growing every year. This book is a look at how you can lay the groundwork to make this possible.

The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook covers the functions and appropriate siting, design, and construction of nine types of earthworks, including swales, dams, ponds, and hügelkultur beds, to maximize water availability in any climate. It’s an essential practical guide for landscape designers, permaculturists, and landowners seeking to maximize food production and ecosystem resiliency at the lowest cost and impact. With extensive appendices that give you all the necessary formulas for everything from how to calculate runoff rates to how to cost out an earthworks project, this book contains everything you need to develop your permaculture site.





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