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Large scale Swale Examples in Arizona or W.NM?

 
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Do you know of any good documented examples?
Not irrigated swales ... but rainwater catchment strategy to establish vegetation, and help with water storage/inflitration.

(please don't say those CCC non-swales in Tucson, those are really poor examples)
(they are basically a glorified rancher's stock tank/pond ... they dammed up a wash)

I've google-searched the hell out of it ... can't find nothing.

Thinking about doing this on my property in AZ.
It would be nice to get some data on this method, ya know, before and after pics .... documented results.

If this thread goes no where, this will be my placeholder/log of sorts for my own project.

Any info would be appreciated!
Thnks!

Mike
 
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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.
 
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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.]
     
    Phil Stevens
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    Beth, those are great resources. I completely forgot about the Bean Tree Farm. The stone checkdams at Turkey Creek are interesting too. We used to go there for picnics and hiking when I was a kid and I remember my uncle had some story about them, but I could never tell for sure when he was pulling my leg so I didn't always pay attention.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    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.



    Not talking gabions and/or rock dams.  

    Moreso asking about swales on contour, for rainwater collection/storage/soil building/etc ... (not irrigated swales).


    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.



    I'll check that out.  I know where that is, I've been there a couple of time for work funny enough.  Thanks.
     
    Phil Stevens
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    The place I'm thinking about is near the headquarters, ESE of the buildings.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    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.]



    thanks for responding.  Seems like Brad's work (that I can access on the net / no books yet) is mostly centered around urban projects.  
    I've been through that link, with all of the demo-sites in and around Tucson.   Mostly landscaping and smaller scale urban stuff from what I remember.

    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).

    Thanks for all the info.  I really appreciate it.

    I'm really from the Phoenix Area.  
    But I work (and "play") a lot in Southern Arizona.  
    Have some land down there.
     
    Beth Wilder
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    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).


    El Coronado is definitely large scale, but Valer's work with the checkdams there is not that ancient, so I don't know if it's what you and Phil saw before or not. There were apparently older ones in the general area. Aldo Leopold described "ancient trincheras check dams... along mountain ridges in Mexico to slow floodwaters, capturing moisture and soil in land that would otherwise erode. In the 1940s, Leopold and his family watched deer browsing on the grassy benches held in place by check dams built centuries before on the Rio Gavilán, not far from Valer's own ranches near the Sonora-Chihuahua border" (same Nabhan book, pp. 46-47).

    But what Valer has done -- paid to have done -- is pretty incredible from the sound of it. She hired stonemasons from Guanajuato -- traditional cantero artisans -- to build check dams on her ranch starting in the 1990s. They built eight to ten dozen dams per drainage wash, and when at first these kept getting wiped out by big rains, she kept having them rebuilt. They built so many that Valer "stopped counting at twenty thousand" (Nabhan, p. 49). The USGS later inventoried them with remote sensing and follow-up walks and "discovered that more than forty thousand check dams had been put in place by the canteros of Guanajuato. They also found that 630 tons of moisture-holding soil were captured behind the dams in just three years." And "the children and grandchildren of the first cantero stone masons continue to build and occasionally repair the tens of thousands of check dams on the lands that Valer manages" (Nabhan, p. 50).

    So that's been a very expensive project. But Nabhan also tells the story of Joe Quiroga, a ranch foreman for Diamond C Ranch in the Canelo Hills region of Santa Cruz County, who starting at around age 60 began moving rocks and boulders around to span "shallow waterways eroding into deep gullies" wherever he saw them. He was about 75 when Nabhan wrote this (published 2018), and with no more equipment than a digging bar and occasionally a pulley and ratchet hooked to his pickup, he had managed to build more than 1,200 check dams by himself (Nabhan, pp. 51-53).

    Scale can be a misleading thing, I think. Sometimes -- Valer said this to Nabhan -- you have to start with something big and bold in order to really make a difference on a piece of land. But other times, maybe just as often, starting small wherever you are, however you can, can make just as much of a difference. When Valer started, her checkdams kept getting wiped out by floods. Nabhan didn't mention that happening with Quiroga's checkdams. Maybe it happened, but fixing them was just the same work as his continuous building of them in the first place, nothing catastrophic. That's what we've found at our decidedly small-scale place. We're more or less constantly digging swales and building berms and piling rocks in some places and wood-and-weed mulch in others, trying things and then trying other things. The best time to dig swales, we've found, is when it's raining and they're filling up with water. We did a lot of work last October when we had a surprise heavy rain and one of our main swales overflowed and the floodwater tried to create a new swale straight toward our front door. We've had no such surprises since then and there are lots of good places for any overflow to go. But it may well happen again, and then we'll learn from that and build in more redundancy and resiliency. What's that permaculture principle? "Apply self-regulation and accept feedback"? Something like that. I think -- at least in many cases -- that starting small, at a human scale, better allows for that kind of self-regulation, acceptance of feedback, and adjustment of strategy and approach.

    You started this thread looking for "some data on this method... before and after pics... documented results." And I agree, that kind of thing is incredibly helpful. I also think that seeing and exploring any examples, whatever their size or scale, whatever their success rate, whatever their intent or potential differences in goals from yours/ours, is helpful wherever and whenever possible, especially in landscapes and climates similar to ours. Unfortunately I haven't seen a lot of the places I mention in person, although I'd love to for just these reasons. Both Bean Tree Farm north of Tucson and Nabhan's orchard and nearby Native Seeds/SEARCH demo farm in Patagonia are high on my list. But what I'm gradually finding is that I'm not sure anything can replace hands-on trial-and-error experimentation on the piece of land that you're focused on, no matter how small you start. Principles and techniques and pictures and results are fantastic and helpful, but observation of and response to the land seems more and more to be essential.

    William Bryant Logan explains this idea of observant attention beautifully in Sprout Lands (published this year), referring in this case to the work of creating traditional hedges: "Hedging puts us into the landscape intimately. It makes us pay attention. When we pay attention, we are repaid in many ways. Attention manifests itself in our activity, not simply in our reflection. The activity may produce only marginal benefits, but the attention multiplies these exponentially. My father always patted his plants; the biodynamic gardeners make elaborate and strange preparations using herbs, minerals, and cow horns, elixirs stirred a prescribed number of times in one direction and then in another. Who knows what outward effect these actions have, but attention is first, priori to what we do, which is always an experiment. The experiment without attention is usually counterproductive, regardless of its content" (p. 105). Later he talks about the importance of physical knowledge built up by actively working -- with hands and brain -- with something like the land, although his example is making an axe: "The whole man had acquired this knowledge. This I would say is knowledge of objective truth. It is not thinking. It is not feeling. It is the training of perception in the face of resistant materials. It is need and thought adjusting to the real. It is a new participation in the world of relationship, one through which a strange kind of flexible precision emerges unbidden" (pp. 107-108).

    That "training of perception in the face of resistant materials," "need and thought adjusting to the real," producing a "strange kind of flexible precision" is what we've been stumblingly discovering at our place and I've been ineptly trying to explain about responding to a particular piece of land. What do you think?
     
    Phil Stevens
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    Beth, thanks for expanding on that. My family lives at the edge of the Canelo Hills and now I know what I want to do next time I visit them: see if I can poke around the Diamond C.

    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.
     
    Phil Stevens
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    Mikhail, I trawled around a bit on Google Maps to see if I could locate an obvious ak chin site. No luck, but I know they're out there. I did come across a feature that might be worth checking out on the Tohono O'odham Reservation south of Sells, around the settlement of San Miguel:

    https://www.google.com/maps/place/San+Miguel,+AZ+85634,+USA/@31.6514561,-111.8030173,13022m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x86d50c96a46eedbd:0xadeced1a5ebc9b43!2sTohono+O'odham+Nation+Reservation,+Papago,+AZ,+USA!3b1!8m2!3d31.9894418!4d-112.046814!3m4!1s0x86d45943b569d155:0xf61ef6c28d6ba53b!8m2!3d31.6229094!4d-111.7778206

    I also made the mistake of typing "ak chin" into a search engine. Almost nothing but casino URLs came back. The Ak Chin tribe of the Pima have embraced 21st-century "precision" agriculture with laser leveled fields and sprinkler irrigation using water pumped uphill from the dying Colorado River. All to grow cotton and cattle feed:

    https://cowboylifestylenetwork.com/use-new-technology-helps-ak-chin-farms-achieve-bountiful-harvest/

    I wonder if anyone there even remembers the origin of the name and knows where to find one.

     
    Beth Wilder
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    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.


    Yeah! O'odham techniques are a great inspiration, and not the only indigenous or traditional ones in the region. Water harvesting earthworks have been part of agriculture throughout this region (including the more arid/monsoonal parts of Mexico) for millennia. Successful checkdams in washes can eventually form terraces, and terrace agriculture has been practiced in various parts of Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Oaxaca, etc.) by different peoples for an awfully long time.

    I've been obsessing over this stuff a bit, so I posted at length about Mexican terrace agriculture elsewhere on Permies here; and I summarized another Nabhan example of water- and soil-harvesting in Mexico using live-staked willow and cottonwood living fencerows to hold and build arable land in floodplains here and here.

    More information on terrace agriculture in other parts of Mexico is here:

  • Susan T. Evans, "The Productivity of Maguey Terrace Agriculture in Central Mexico during the Aztec Period," Latin American Antiquity Vol. 1, No. 2 (Jun., 1990), pp. 117-132.
  • José Manuel Pérez Sánchez, "Agricultural Terraces in Mexico," World Terraced Landscapes: History, Environment, Quality of Life, Environmental History vol 9 (Springer, Cham), pp 159-176.

  • Nabhan writes about the O'odham floodwater fields extensively in The Desert Smells Like Rain: very inspiring and useful stuff. And I'm sure he'd be a great in-person resource if you're able to make that contact.

    Mikhail, I looked through my copy of Brad Lancaster's first volume, and another potential example is the Running Rain Society in west-central New Mexico. At the time of his writing, it sounded like Dan and Karen Howell's 40-acre homestead made up the entire society, but since then I've seen evidence online of what may be another ranch in it. I couldn't find much more though. Maybe you'll have more luck?
     
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    This guy did a lot of earthworks on his property for his Geoff Lawton PDC.  He is in Concho AZ, up in Apache County.  Mike Mysler?  I have no idea the spelling...  His property is about 100 acres.

    Here is his design:



    Here is the work done:



    There is one update video that I can find.  Doesn't show as much as I'd love to see - it's just a teaser!  Why do people film vertically?  He said they get 11-12 inches of rain a year, I think.



    I hope he puts another update out soon.  His design has been in play, what, 6 years now?

     
    Kim Goodwin
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    Beth Wilder wrote:
    [list]one of Nabhan's latest books, Food from the Radical Center, mentions the traditional stone checkdams...



    I looked this one up on Amazon, and NO ONE has rated it!  I'm shocked, as it looks really interesting.  Anyone who has read it would do the author a huge favor if you stuck the first rating up there.  I think this book is on the book grid, too.  

    Here is a thread on the book with some Youtube interviews of the author, Gary Nabhan: Food From the Radical Center with author interviews on page

    There is so much good stuff in this thread, it's going to take me hours to go through it all.  Thank you everyone!  

    Mikhail, are you finding the sort of info you meant?  What exactly did you mean by large scale?
     
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    NE arizona.

    Six years ago i started. I went out with my shovel and dug hundreds of feet of swales. Just a shovel wide
    because what's the point of destroying existing grasses and shrubs in order to promote growing grasses and shrubs.

    We've had a drought for six years.

    Where i have dug catchment ponds in clay the grasses are significantly thicker.

    There is one area where i dug a 3 foot wide 20 foot long catchment in soil. The grasses growing on the dirt mound are growing closer together and taller than anywhere else.

    All of my trees are planted below the surrounding soil but that's not enough for them.

    The bottom of my land has a monsoon arroyo but
    passing cows chomp any possible growth.

    Note: whenever i use the word "soil" it's tongue in cheek.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    Kim Goodwin wrote:This guy did a lot of earthworks on his property for his Geoff Lawton PDC.  He is in Concho AZ, up in Apache County.
    .....
    I hope he puts another update out soon.  His design has been in play, what, 6 years now?



    Thanks for that.  
    That property is not hard to find on Google Earth.
    The swales don't look like they've spurred much vegetation...(in the swales themselves).

    But yes, this type of thing.   Before and After photos and documentation.
    Hard to find anything.

    But admittedly, Concho (and most of far NE AZ) is brutal area to try to do 'anything' in my opinion.
    His property is fairly ideal for that area, because of access to off site water.
    That land is cheap up there (for reasons), most of it looks like Mars, so you see a lot of people try permaculture designs and/or living-off-the-land type things.
    They only get 10"-12" of rain, its cold (6000'+ elevation), and its always windy, heavy clay denuded soils and/or basalt rock .... just brutal.

    kevin stewart's property sounds interesting.  
    And yes, trying to plan out/survey the swale routes without destroying any existing vegetation is rough.


    Beth, thanks for all the info.   When I have spare time on my hands, I DO in fact fish through those sources and links you provided.....

    To all, if I do not respond, I'm either swamped at work .... or making plans for the property.
    Any hints or advice is really appreciated.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    I guess this will be my project thread.



    Area gets a decent amount of rain for a "dryland strategy" project .... about 14"-16" annually IIRC.
    Most of it in what I would call the late summer ("monsoon" is what they call it here locally).
    Most of this area has great potential, but has been heavily impacted by cattle.
    Some of the privately held smaller parcels withOUT livestock look great.
    Most of the public range land get over grazed ....its hit and miss.

    The north 1/3 of the property is fairly flat, becoming almost completely flat to the west side (Road).
    The southern 1/3 is a little slopey and rolling .... the east border also has some slope.

    Its evident the neighbor to the east has been letting his cattle come through the gate !
    I'll have to secure that.  Secure existing barbed wire.
    Then get out there with a laser level/transit..... see what we can do.

    I'd like to establish an orchard of some sort in the flat area.
    Possibly later a home-site.
    This property currently is about a 2 1/2 drive from where I live....that might change of course.
     
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    Orchard may be more appropriate on slope due to being able to harvest extra water with "boomerang" style berms and basins (what Brad Lancaster calls a kind of small swale-like thing).  Flat area might be better for pasture.

    This set of documents might be helpful in designing your land: https://quiviracoalition.org/induced-meandering/  

    And of course if you don't already have it, I can't recommend highly enough Brad Lancaster's Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2.  


    The Black Mesa Permaculture Project might be a useful example of swales, if you can somehow get to see it.  http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/our-sevices/projects/
     
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    Have you asked the local NRCS or the county Extension agent if anyone has put in swales in the last 70 years and if so how are they doing? My grandfather put in swales on contour in the 1950s or 1970s. He seeded them too. Nowadays there are taller grasses in the uphill water-retaining part and short grasses on top of the swales themselves. We average 23" of rain/year but have extended droughts such as 2011-2014. I would not consider putting more swales in as I believe they would take a decade or more to heal and grass over even if seeded.
    Check out this thread: https://permies.com/t/127667/dig-rainfall-moisture-retention.
     
    Kim Goodwin
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    I saw another video on Youtube that hopefully someone else recalls as well.  It was put up by a permaculture designer in AZ, and it was of a client's property in southern AZ that they had put many swales into.  

    The client was a guy who was starting a spiritual group of some sort, and had bought the land for that purpose.  The land was flat-ish and badly denuded  of plant life.  I don't recall if it was overgrazed or if it had been farmed in cotton and exhausted/toxxed out.  I believe it was one of those issues.

    They brought grass back with the swales.  That was an accomplishment.  I've been looking for the video, but I think that bookmark is stuck on my old computer...

     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Here is a large site which has swales:  https://avalongardens.org/ecovillage

    "Our EcoVillage is situated within the Santa Cruz River Watershed, where the Santa Cruz River and major tributaries sustain one of the country's largest cottonwood-willow riparian forests. This area is habitat for numerous species, including the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Gila Topminnow. Because of the fragility and importance of this ecological system, we take careful measures to wisely manage our water use. All across our property, swales and water encatchment sites have been constructed as part of our larger land use and water management practices meant to protect and improve the quality of water in a comprehensive manner."
     
    kevin stewart
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    I'm north of concho.

    Mars is exactly how i describe this area though i think a lot can be done in greenhouse(s). Wild west is another description. My nearest neighbors are a four mile walk away, the kind of people who don't blink when i ask for a ride to the train station, only 180 mile round trip.

    When i was in a swale digging mood i planned on digging along a long sloped area. I had seen rain sleet down it in the past. I didn't because it wasn't fenced off and cattle would trample it. So put up your barbed wire.good fences make good neighbors, or at least keeps them out.

    I can only visit my place but living there full time would make a difference.
    It's going to rain/snow this week, think of all the water i could collect.

    When i walk the fenceline I'm always looking at both sides to see if my area has better growth. I'm never sure.



     
    denise ra
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    Take photos of both sides of the fence, then you can study them at your leisure. I'm not living on my place yet either and photos are helpful when I want to cogitate on it.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    Any following this thread:

    I found an interesting spot near Eden, AZ in Graham County that has some "large scale" swales: 32°58'2.46"N  109°52'17.54"W.
    If anyone has the history on this area, I'd be interested....my googlefu yielded nothing.

    It would appear there is also a couple of diversion dams there, directing (splitting) the flood/flows around the farm fields of Eden, out to the Gila River.
    Its all BLM land, but there are some swales on some private property down below.
    I don't know if the old ranchers did the swaling, or if it was a part of some kind of Flood Control Dept. effort/BLM thing that went along with constructing the two diversion dams/dikes/levies.
    My aerials go back to only 1997 on google....I'm sure they're older than that (guessing 50's).

    You can see the swales on the bajadas and/or alluvial fans there, reaching way up into the BLM lands.
    If you really study it, they go up slope 3 miles or more into the desert there...
    Here they occur about every 500-600 intervals ... more or less.
    Trying to overlay a USGS Topo map ... maybe 10-20 foot elevation drop between them.
    Its all over the place really.

    One is about 0.4 mile long.



    I will check out and report back.  Take some pictures, etc (or maybe I'll wait until spring, like a real estate agent would lol).
    I guess the point of this post/thread .... is to see what better examples are out there to see if the idea really pays off in a arid/desert scenario.
    I'm not so convinced... (about arid situations).
    The example of the "swales" in Tucson done by the CCC are very poor and misleading examples.
    Granted, a permaculture type swale wasn't the intent here (CCC example) when they did it ... but stop pointing to that as a example.
    They just dammed up a wash more or less, concentrating a large amount of run off (water, soil, silt, organics) into one single spot.

    I've been very disappointed a have not found any well documented examples.


    ----------------------------
    As far as my project down Arivaca (much more rain there than Eden)....that's been put on hold due to family/personal/lack of time problems.
     
    Mikhail Mulbasicov
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    I checked out them last weekend.

    They are basically Stone Bunds? (on the BLM public land).

    Rows of one larger 10-14" stone high, with smaller stones on the backside to buttress the leading edge.
    A fairly non dramatic effect, for being in place for 30 years+.

    There is maybe 2"-3" of built up soil on the uphill side .... maybe.
    No real visible difference is appreciable plant life on either side, some places, yes, an improvement in small weeds.

    Impressive someone (people) did all this by hand.  
    I don't know what effect they were going for....how they are tied into the existing small washes/drainage rills seems random and nonsensical to me.
     
    Phil Stevens
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    I haven't seen the site up close but if it's what I'm imagining, they could have made inverted V-shaped swales just a tiny bit off contour with the vertex intercepting those smaller drainages, which don't appear to be downcut. Just going perpendicular on contour doesn't look very effective in that setting, which is one of the driest spots in SE Arizona.

    Then again, putting slightly higher dams across those minor channels would create seasonal shallow charcos and trap some sediment. That might be a better investment in energy terms.
     
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