Water harvesting strategies

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by Ludi, May 13, 2012.

  1. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    It's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by the need to construct large earthworks to manage large volumes of water. The 20 acres my husband and I are restoring for wildlife in Central Texas is blessed - or cursed - by two seasonal creeks which pass through the center of the property. During flood events, as much as 120 acre-feet of water per hour pass through the lower portion of the land and over our driveway. We have three culverts in the driveway but they are easily overtopped by a flood event. This amount of water is more than we can deal with both physically and $$. The year before last we had a large infiltration basin installed at the northeast corner of the property where the upper creek enters. This has been very successful at trapping and infiltrating large volumes of water from that corner:

    [​IMG]

    We plan to get at least two more of these basins dug as funds become available. These will, we hope reduce the amount of water that comes into the homestead part of the land which contains the house, workshop, animal areas and gardens. The homestead area is the subject of this thread and, though small (about an acre), still a big challenge to deal with the water which comes through. We're beginning to design and implement small-scale water harvesting strategies in this area, something we can do with limited $ and physical ability (just one or at most two middle-aged folks). Here's a rough map of the homestead area with some existing and planned features and some water diversions and catchments sketched in:

    [​IMG]

    Some features are just in the planning stage and the position is provisional, such as the fruit tree guilds, which will take the place of Oaks which are dying of Oak Wilt. Those will probably happen over a period of years and their exact position will be dependent on how much area is opened up by removing Junipers and dead Oaks. The Water Garden is also in the planning stage. Prairie Garden and Asparagus Garden are in progress. The Kitchen Garden is almost complete, I've been installing buried wood beds throughout and just have a small area to finish, but it might take me the rest of the year. I'm extremely happy with how this is working out with capturing and holding water. Even though the subject of this thread is dealing with large volumes of water, our region is actually still in severe drought. Due to climate change this region is expected to experience more intense droughts alternating with catastrophic flooding. We won't be able to expect "normal" rainfall, but will have to plan for these extremes......

    Here's a pic of the runoff coming from the field behind the house where we hope to put in a swale (or more than one):

    [​IMG]
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    In a drought area, you are blessed to have such a valuable resource in abundance. And it's great to see you thinking about ways to make the most of it.
     
  3. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Yes, I think we are blessed, but during flood it feels a bit like a curse at this point! We hope to be able to slow the water as much as possible, but the lower creek is too large to do much with because it drains from hundreds of acres upstream. We're trying some brush dams in the channel, but not sure if they will survive a very large flood, when the bottom of the property can be almost two feet deep in rushing water.....Our main concentration needs to be on the runoff from the land above the house. There's an old quarry back there which acts as a huge swale, but it has filled and overflowed during extreme events, which is why we need additional basins and swales.
     
  4. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Ludi

    I think your current situation highlights an often overlooked component of the permaculture design: What is happening (or planned to happen) at the local/bioregional scale? Say for example that those existing 'hundreds [maybe thousands?] of acres upstream' are physically altered - i.e. permeable areas are made less permeable through urban development - where is all that future storm water runoff going to go? In some regions, even arid ones, climate change promises to deliver even more extreme weather (rain) events at greater frequency in the future. Is this something you have factored into your overall plan/design? I mean, it is all well and good that you are planning/designing for the mitigation of flood events that will occur on your own site, and I congratulate you for this. However, have you fully considered what is happening (or planned to happen) further up in the catchment? Perhaps it is time, if you have not already done so, to undertake a hydrological assessment/evaluation of the entire catchment (bioregion) that you reside in, in order to better understand exactly what it is that you are up against now, and to help develop a management plan for the future. Perhaps a local/bioregional water management authority has already undertaken this work? The South Central Texas Regional Water Planning Group might be a good place to start looking.

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
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  5. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thanks for those recommendations, Markos.
     
  6. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I would like to ask for help with my over all plan and how to properly integrate the elements with each other and the water harvesting, but I don't know to whom I can turn for this kind of help, not having money to pay a designer.

    I have not been able to get in touch with any permaculturists in my local area, the nearest ones are over 100 miles away as far as I can tell.
     
  7. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Can you post it here?
    100 miles is nothing for the net
    i am sure you will get lots of advice.
    It might be a good exercise for forum members and you may get some ideas you can use

    Water harvesting strategies
    on line course (not personally recommending, just saying)
    https://www.rmit.edu.au/courses/046041
    https://pitchforkprojects.com/Pitchfork/Learn_Online.html
    other
    https://www.permies.com/t/8420/sout...rks-Rainwater-Harvesting-Implementation-Hands
    https://permaculture.org.au/2012/03...at-the-pris-zaytuna-farm-april-30-may-4-2012/
    Rain
    [video=youtube;1ib0drunwTw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ib0drunwTw[/video]
    etc
    [video=youtube;WymWRDd1OOg]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WymWRDd1OOg[/video]


    swales (many threads here on this)
    https://permaculture.org.au/2010/05/20/water-harvesting-and-storage/
     
  8. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day again, Ludi

    Concerning water harvesting, and the broader topic of managing watersheds: Checkout the Rainwater Harvesting program at Texas A&M. There you will find a plethora of resources available, including an online course for $30.

    Concerning the integration of a water harvesting design into an overall permaculture plan: According to the WPN interactive map, there are 15 'permaculture people' living in Texas, and a further 9 'permaculture projects' situated in the state. Are none of these people able to help/advise?

    Failing the above, and considering that your finances are limited, you may have to train yourself! Seriously, I left school soon after turning 16, and apart from various stints with 'vocational' training institutions, I did not return to 'formal' education until I started my undergrad in 2006, some 22-years later. Today, I'm scoping for a PhD! In all that time (prior to going to uni, and since) I have never stopped learning, including 10-years on-and-off practicing as a WWOOFer. I've never had much money (although more recently it's started to come my way much more frequently), but I never let that stop me from learning. Membership to your local library is (generally) free. Some of the most educated, intelligent, practical and resourceful people I know have never been to school! But these same people sure as hell spent a lot of time in their local library (before the internet, presumedly) and then backed up their 'theory' with plenty of 'practice'.

    Sorry if the above sounds harsh. It is certainly not my intention to be so. Rather, I'm trying to say that if you want something bad enough, no matter what hurdles you may have to overcome, you can obtain it - or at least in the process learn that you didn't really need it in the first place.

    So, go to your local library and pick up a copy of The Holistic Life: Sustainability through Permaculture. Return home and read the book. Then lay out a big piece of paper, pick up a pen, and start planning your permaculture design (and future life).

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
  9. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I guess I don't know how to post a plan here. See illustration above. That is the plan I have. I don't know how to ask for help here. I don't know what questions to ask, nor how to ask them. I get told to work harder and learn on my own. That is what I have been doing for years already. What I am asking for is help to refine or improve my design.


    I have Lancaster's Rainwater Harvesting books. I have watched lots of videos. I have Mollison's "Designer's Manual" and Hemenways's "Gaia's Garden." Plus lots of other books. :)
     
  10. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Anyway, I want to thank folks for their suggestions and help. I wish I knew better how to ask questions on this forum.
     
  11. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I agree Ludi, you do already work very hard, study lots and do what you can. I think getting help is an excellent idea, and I'd love it if we could step up and help you.

    I don't have the skills to help with the drawing of your property, and I'm hoping someone here can help with that. What I wanted to know first off was where does the water come from and how does it move across that picture. (would also be good to get a picture that is able to be enlarged in focus. Can anyone do that?). I'm guessing the water comes from the right of the picture... is that right? Where are the creeks?

    I love that first photo - being able to see what your land is like, and the trees, and that infiltration basin looks wonderful.

    One of the things I hear consistently from you is that the projects are more than you have the time, energy and money for. I think this is common - in the past there would have been more people around to help with such land. Then I tend to think of two things. One is getting more help eg setting yourselves up for woofers. Did you consider this already? (can't remember sorry).

    The other is to start working closer to zone one and work outwards. I think you are probably doing this already, but I wonder if this should be central to your plan ie looking at what is achievable within your limits and then building on that. Perhaps you could post a bit about how much time, energy, money, support etc you have as well, so that people here know what you have to work with. This is important - you need a design that is attainable.
     
  12. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thank you pebble, that is very helpful and supportive. I will try to prepare a map showing the flow of the water.
     
  13. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    [​IMG]

    I think some of the worst problems might be solved by a swale or two in the field behind the house, and my husband is contemplating renting a trenching machine to do that. To direct water from the driveway below the house into the Asparagus and Prairie gardens, I think we'll need to hire someone to bring in road base to elevate portions of the drive. We don't have much spare money, so we might only be able to do one of these projects this year. I feel I have misdirected some of my efforts in the past, such as getting interested in aquaponics and spending a lot of money on tanks which probably should have been spent in rain management. I find prioritizing very difficult. :(
     
  14. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Instead of raising the drive, is it possible to cut a drainage line for water to soak in, and move it else where, like a dry creekbed during summer, but doubles as a way for water to soak in, and be redirected else where. ((tough for me to see, I'm getting old))
     
  15. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    At first look - without knowing where the contour lines are - a swale between the kitchen garden and the sheep paddock would intercept most of the water coming in. You might get another one in below it before the water garden, and could spill the lower one into the water garden. Between the workshop and the prairie garden where the water runs is the road right? Take the overflow from the water garden and the rain tank to a drain as Pak suggests above your road, and then under the road through a pipe after the prairie garden - where you have marked the water flow.
    That will infiltrate a lot of the water into the ground above your house, slow the water down so it isn't stripping off top soil and mulch, top up your water garden, preserve the road and keep the water moving through the system to whatever is below you.
    In the PDC we were taught that the order of priorities is water, access then structures. So getting the swales in first would be the priority. Then you could see whether you still need to do anything along the road (access) because the swales might be so effective that it is no longer an issue. Then you can get on with building your gardens (structures).
     
  16. Woz

    Woz Junior Member

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    Very difficult to make suggestions with limited information. Also, we only have a mud-map of the residential area. I wold help a lot to have aerial images and maps of the whole property including contours. Also soil types etc. It may be that the water cold be directed easier and with less effort further away from the residential compound. Then again, soil types might suggest large swales might be contraindicated.

    A more complete map and set of information would help immensely Ludi.
     
  17. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Woz, how would one go about getting such maps? Would a shot of google maps be useful as a start?
     
  18. Woz

    Woz Junior Member

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    Well, I know how to get them here in Aus, but no idea about the US. That would be a task for Ludi I expect.
     
  19. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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  20. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I will attempt to get better maps.
     

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