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Sepp making lakes (specifically the hydrological costs)

 
gardener
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master pollinator
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This caught my eye:

"Portugal´s average rainfall is similar to that of central Europe — yet the desert seems to grow right before our eyes."

So it's not so much a matter of not enough rainfall as poor rainfall management.

Sounds like my region! 
 
Mother Tree
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The difference between summer and winter rainfall is pretty extreme. 

We've been known to have 7" of rain in 24 hours.  And as our soil is only around 8" deep, there's no way on earth it can hold all that water, so it just runs off, taking a load of topsoil with it. 

Here's a photo of a little pond on our farm in December - the word 'lush' springs to mind.



And here is the same area, recently dug out to make it deeper, in July - not a trace of moisture anywhere!



Tamera have produced an 8 page downloadable pdf explaining their work called 'Healing the Water Cycle through the Creation of Water Retention Landscapes'.  Here's the link.  http://www.verlag-meiga.org/sites/verlag-meiga.org/files/Water_engl.pdf
 
Tyler Ludens
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Same here, Burra, except here it can rain 12" in 24 hours. 
 
pollinator
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Paul and Kelda continue reviewing Sepp Holzer's Permaculture (the book), chapter 1 part 5 in this podcast: podcast

They talk about Sepp making lakes.
 
                                
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Location: Eastern Colorado, USA
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Wow... what an intense thread! After reading it all, two main thoughts come to mind. (I didn't necromance it, so don't blame me. )

First, I've spent quite a bit of time exploring in the Rockies. I especially like stomping around mountain meadows and admiring Nature's little engineers, the beaver. It's pretty clear why there are meadows. If we didn't have beaver, they would just be steep, rocky, roaring runoff channels in the spring, and dry come summer. I have to think that's where people got the idea to build gabions. It's also interesting to note, in late summer, just how far the lush green areas extend past the marges of beaver ponds.


Second, I'd like to put the upstream/downstream hydrology thing into a continental context. Let's take the Mississippi River, from its outflow into the Gulf, all the way to the Continental Divide. Its catchment is about 2/3 the land area of the lower 48 states. (I don't know for certain, just looking at a map and taking a guess.)

So far as we know, the Mississippi has always had its floods, but we can hazard a guess that they weren't always so bad. The floods used to deposit silt on the Delta. Now the Delta is washing away. Why? Obviously more water is flowing down the river, under less control. But why?

Engineers. Both civil, and the Army Corps type. The goal of civil engineers, for decades, has been drainage, drainage, and more drainage. Make that water run off downstream as fast as you can. Mix that with the hundreds of thousands of acres we cover with more concrete, asphalt, and other impermeable surfaces (haha, like conventional cropland), and we have a recipe for disaster. Now see how important those little beaver dams all over the mountains are?

The problem with flooding on the Mississippi... and of course the Ohio and Missouri rivers too... is not torrential rains. It's runoff... and the bulldozers that have been speeding up the runoff for 75 years. They burn and bulldoze vegetation along the channels and streams. They poison cattails. They dredge the rivers. All in a vain effort to speed up the water... which is exactly what's causing the floods they're trying to prevent!

So, to get at Emerson White's assertion -- yes indeed, there are consequences downstream.

The solution, I think, does not lie in multi-billion-dollar FEMA projects and million-man-hour government engineering think-tanks. We don't have to slow the Mississippi itself, directly. We don't have to touch the Platte or even smaller tributaries. We just have to slow the runoff where it starts. Think beaver dams. One beaver dam might not do much, but a thousand of them will be noticed in New Orleans. Millions of gabions and check dams and farm ponds will slow the river, save the towns, bring back the silt deposit. That's just for starters. Imagine millions of acres in perennial culture, absorbing the water it sheds now, rejecting the plow.


Mr White asserts that slowing water upstream will deprive someone downstream of water. Perhaps for one season, or a few if there's drought. So it's true, temporarily. But all the water inevitably, thanks to gravity, ends up somewhere downhill of where it fell. Whether it pops out in springs, or recharges the Ogallala aquifer, or overflows your check dam in a rain... it's going downhill. No one will be deprived of anything but flooding and FEMA trailers.

The one certain inevitable result of increasing upstream storage and infiltration, and slowing the downhill flow, checking the runoff -- is that there will be more water stored on the land, for use by everyone. Once the water hits the Gulf, we can't use it. Think of holding it back as charging one ginormous battery.

Think big, Mr White. We can no longer afford not to.
 
duane hennon
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Sepp going "mainstream"

http://challenge.bfi.org/application_summary/3193 (this is the same award Alan Savory won)

The Water Retention Landscape of Tamera - a model for reversing desertification worldwide
Bernd Mueller, Thomas Luedert, Christoph Ulbig, Silke Kluever, Silke Paulick

The Water Retention Landscape is a model for natural decentralized water management, restoration of damaged ecosystems and disaster prevention. It is a basis for reforestation, agriculture and aquaculture, especially in regions threatened by desertification, and is an integral part of a comprehensive model for sustainability in water, food, energy and social structures.

Read More

 
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I think that regardless of the costs downstream due to loss of flow for a period, the moral questions needs to be asked. Why can they not exist with the rainwater that falls on their land? Are they wasting it.
Does their waste entitle them to the flow of the watercourse? Maybe they need to use their rain.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Gros wrote:I think that regardless of the costs downstream due to loss of flow for a period, the moral questions needs to be asked. Why can they not exist with the rainwater that falls on their land?



Why can't the rest of us? Why should these people, among us all, be singled out for this criticism? Why should they be held to a higher moral standard than the rest of us?
 
John Gros
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Because farming can be done with the rainfall if you catch it and hold it for your plants, it still flows to creeks and rivers. Dams on watercourses are for erosion prevention and temporarily holding the water. Those downstream should be thankful for flood mitigation, and should use their rain instead of letting it flood others lands. Its not a higher moral standard if those at the top of the watershed are trying to use their rain, its then the same moral standard.
I did say temporarily because I don't think anyone short of govt can afford to build a truly waterproof dam, and that all dams on watercourses do not stop those below from getting their share. I think those at the bottom of the watershed should not expect that those at the top of the water shed, to not slow the water flow. They must understand that water users are a queue. Those at the top of the watershed have first bite. Even if you could make a waterproof dam at the top of the water shed, there is all the rainfall, and runoff from below the dam, and the dam can only hold so much before it flows anyway. If it is not flowing it is still soaking out to the subsoil and downstream via that mode of transport.
I think the complaint about not having water downstream of a dam, is because they don't have a dam, and don't have other earthworks to make use of their rain.
Do you have Sushi Train where you are? A restaurant where sushi runs on a conveyor around the restaurant and people pull off the sushi they want as it comes past? Its a similar concept to a river. I can sit just outside the kitchen and have first bite at the sushi. I can grab the plates as they come out, but eventually I can't eat any more. So then the plates go down anyway. Imagine then that there is enough sushi made to feed everyone but they only come out for an hour a day. So I fill the table in front of me as they come out (a dam) for use when the sushi is not made and does not circle anymore. The guy further down complains when the sushi stops going around the track, because I have some sushi. He could have grabbed some sushi for when it is no longer made, but he did not.
Its not immoral to plan ahead, I think its immoral not to plan ahead.
The question of can you dam enough water to stop the water flow downstream is better answered with why is it possible? Where can you increase rainfall by reforestation? Where can you increase the water held by the soil and plants so that the stopped flow resumes. I think we have plenty of rainfall to do it all, and we can increase the rainfall. Pressure on those lower down in the watershed is a good thing as it encourages an end to the wasteful methods they currently use. I also think that they should understand "their" water comes at the cost of land destroyed further up the watershed. They have to pay the cost of restoration even if it means less water and changes to their practices.
Emmerson White is right, that the offsite input, and the offsite cost should be evaluated, but is wrong that it is only for those at the top of the watershed, its also for those at the bottom of the watershed.
 
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Brenda Groth wrote:what about the people downstream that lose all their water?



Sepp insists passionately that is is NOT the case. That increasing the saturation of the earth body with water can only have a positive effect on water downstream, since he's not taking water OUT of the system, he's just slowing it down so more is retained through each season in and on the landscape so that instead of water flowing on the surface and away when it rains, more stays for longer, and once the ground charges, it holds more water, and has more plants which holds more water. As the hydological balance improves, there is simply more water around, and with increased humidity, even rainfall can eventually increase.
 
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Since we are talking lakes, surface water, ground water, water rights, etc. I would like to add something related.
When you have periods of high water flow, you are also likely to have higher particulate flow such as silt.
When you look at the history of old terraced farm plots you see forest land draining into terraced plots.
In other areas you see flooding and silt being deposited and planting being done in the silt when it is dry enough.
So there are several methods to divert water during high flow so ponds do not silt up.
This diverted water can be moved to larger shallow ponds so silt can settle out.
It is possible to setup a system to recharge rice paddy type ponds on a regular basis.
shallow ponds would allow for ground water recharging.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We use basins instead of ponds (so far). Basins are just ponds dug out but not compacted. They're made with a bobcat instead of with an excavator and bulldozer. The purpose of the basins is to slow and infiltrate water. Eventually we hope to put in enough of these and other structures to recharge the groundwater enough to get spring flow or even develop a small permanent pond.

Here's our top basin full of water after heavy rain:



basin.jpg
[Thumbnail for basin.jpg]
 
alex Keenan
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It's interesting to see this old thread resurrected. I just spent 45 minutes re-reading it.

Someone above mentioned the work of beavers in shaping the land and recharging the hydrology of their ecosystem. At one time in North America millions and millions of beavers (some estimate upwards of 20 or 25 million). They dammed just about every small stream from Alaska down all the way to Mexico. This dramatically impact the hydrology by slowing the movement of water, creating millions of acres of wetlands and ponds, and capturing eroding soil. All these millions of beaver dams didn't diminish the water available downstream. Just the opposite: it charged the system with billions of gallons that otherwise would rush down the main river systems (the Colorado, the Sacramento, the Columbia, the Mississippi, etc.) and pour into the ocean.

When you remove the beavers (which we did a pretty good job of by hunting them right out of existence in many regions), the streams are excised, the water no longer filters down into the land, and the hundreds of other species that depend upon the habitat created by the beavers are adversely impacted.

We could replicate the work of beavers with thousands of small water features (ponds, swales, check dams, etc.). I live in a state that has been in drought now for years. If we built a million of these small features in our hills (or imported and reintroduced beavers to do it for us), we wouldn't have half the problem we have today.

 
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