Phil Stevens wrote:Hi Mikhail, and welcome to permies. If you're talking about the gabions along the Altar Wash in Buenos Aires, those are drop structures put there to try and heal the downcutting of the arroyo by trapping sediment, spreading and slowing flows to increase infiltration, and improve the habitat. Not swales, though.
There might be some good examples on the Empire-Cienega Ranch...I seem to recall talk about it years ago but memory is a little hazy on details.
Beth Wilder wrote:Hi, Mikhail! I don't have any for-sure examples for you (although there are at least a few smaller scale projects in southeastern Arizona), but I have some potential places to start looking:
Brad Lancaster, Tucson-based author of the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond books, has an online list of demonstration projects in Arizona here (I don't see any in New Mexico); Bean Tree Farm north of Tucson was designed by Barbara Rose (part of the Sonoran Permaculture Guild) using permaculture principles and "welcom[es] rainwater into the landscape through gently placed earthworks, cisterns, and organic mulches, increasing soil health and habitat for native and drylands-adapted species," and workshops and a farmstand welcome guests to the location; Gary Paul Nabhan's orchard farmstead, Almuñia de los Zopilotes, near Patagonia uses "water-harvesting strategies... to reduce on-farm groundwater and fossil fuel uses," maybe including swales?; one of Nabhan's latest books, Food from the Radical Center, mentions the traditional stone checkdams built in the West Turkey Creek watershed of the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona by rancher Valer Clark of the Cuenca de los Ojos Foundation and her El Coronado Ranch to return water to the landscape (pp. 46-51 of the hardback edition) -- I realize this isn't swales, but it's in the family of water management to revegetate arid lands. I believe the ranch has a guesthouse for game bird hunters, etc. so maybe you could see that in person, too, should you wish it; and Not sure at what scale, but Marcia Gibbons of Ransom Ranch somewhere near Bisbee is doing really cool things at her earthship homestead that may involve swales, although I think she's doing more bio-intensive gardening than, say, arid lands sunken bed monsoon gardens. Not sure, but she has an open house potluck the first Sunday of every month.
I hope that's at all helpful. Best of luck with your property! Are you in the Tucson area? [Edited to clarify details of (re)sources.]
Mikhail Mulbasicov wrote:The El Coronado Ranch thing sounds very interesting, and more of the scale I'm interested in it sounds like.
Years ago (like decades) before I was .... ummm... much less "environmental aware" I was wondering around south-eastern Arizona, I came around what could be described as some shallow but very long rock dams that looked ancient. I wonder if that's the same thing (West Turkey Creek reference). I'll check it out, see if I can find it again. From what I remember, that area was beautiful and lush (at the time).
Phil Stevens wrote:Interesting that so many examples of these stone dams or gabions may have been put in place by the original Mexican ranchers. I wonder if the land grants are good places to look. I also wonder if the inspiration for making them came from what the O'odham had been doing for centuries a little further west.
The ak chin, or floodwater field, is a method of dryland crop growing which uses the alluvial fan at the outflow of a mountain drainage. Starting with the fertile, deep silt which is already in place, the O'odham would place brush weirs across the direction of water flow and wait for the monsoon. The porous dams would slow and spread the runoff, and more silt and organic matter deposited on the ground. After the flood (which might very well be the only one they got that entire season) they would plant in the damp earth. The alluvium with all the extra organic material would hold the water and keep the plants growing through the late summer until harvest. This method of agriculture allowed the people to live and farm in the driest, hottest part of the Sonoran Desert, even in the Pinacate where annual rainfall is less than 10 cm.
Gary Nabhan might be worth chatting up. He could possibly point you to some good examples of ak chin that are still being done today.