I am so excited by the land works and water features in Sepp's designs. As wonderful as hugelkultur is and how it transforms land I am most excited by water/ponds. Water is the soul of the land and keeping it seems so very important. I have some land that has two good wells but they are at one of the lower points where the existing house and farm yard is and there is no water high up on the land. I want to build ponds on the land but I am a little unsure on how to best go about this. I am also unsure if we get enough water to fill ponds. The land is in Canada, in the central Alberta foothills at about 3500 ft. The growing zone is zone 2/3 and gets about 20 inches of rainfall in an average year but the climate is very dry. We also get some snow cover. The interesting thing about the land is that it is located near the top of a hill and I believe gets little water from above, it also is generally shaped like one half of an upside down bowl. The soil has a very high clay content. It was an old Dairy farm so most of the open land is pasture, some area more abused than others. I am hoping that my land can one day be as productive and full of life as is Sepp's. Any suggestions on how to best accomplish this or if I am too ambitious would be appreciated I am also looking at integrating many other techniques to hold water in the soil but the ponds are the area I am most unsure of. I am trying to attach a picture and marked general water flow with blue areas, some depressions on orange and the high point with Red Star. The land falls at least 100ft from high to low over the 155 Acres, the land has slope everywhere. Thanks
Desert or Paradise by Sepp Holzer offers some good details on this topic of building ponds in relation to the landscape and using the existing soil structures. I am interested to read the response you receive. I would think it is a good purchase.
A lot of things come out of nowhere, so look everywhere.
Sepp uses the spring/pond combo as a free/natural water irrigation system.
Seeing as how you dont have a spring you are out of luck, infact you dont even have a catchment area above you because you are at the "top" of the hill.
You could use a pond liner/clay to buid ponds but with only 20 inches of water/rain per year, Its most likely that your evaporation rate is close to the rainfall.
So it might make more sense to store the water in the soil or at least in swale vs open ponds.
In theory you could pump the fossil water (well) up to the top of the hill and use it to fill your pond and the re-pump back up to the top over and over again.
By re-pumping the water back up the hill, you would withdraw less fossil water (well), there would however be energy cost. But it is something to ponder.
What if you build a swale or two, in an arc around the high point. Any rain or snowmelt would be gathered into the ditch/swale and be collected. The water would infiltrate the land and any overflow could be directed into a pond.
A couple of the low areas hold water after spring melt and after heavy rains. I was thinking of using Swales to collect and distribute water to the ponds when constructed. I have also thought of pumping water up hill if necessary. I have lots of ideas and hoped that someone with more experience would be able to point me in the best direction. Thanks for the help and I hope to hear many more ideas.
i definately cant say i have more experience, but i am trying something similar on much smaller land, my plan is to use some small hand dug swales right at the crown or just feet "below" it elevation wise
then below those small swales i will have a deep, say 4ft deep machine dug swale with a small frog pond and silt trap in it on the two ends, this swale will flow right into the planned pond, after going through the silt trap
the pond, IF it ever fills is to fill up entirely and then backfill the swale, which would expand the pond's size temporarily
the pond and the swale share a true overflow point (by true i mean that the swale has an initial overflow into the pond but if it ever gets full enough will share an overflow point with the pond) on the south side of the swale, where the water will slowly snake its way through the rest of the property before leaving near the house, which is poorly placed at pretty much the bottom of two hills, we regraded to help prevent flooding but honestly this house is where a pond should really be placed
the rest of the pond is to have no overflow points, conserving as much water as possible, i plan to have stones throughout the pond, and if i find it plausible during that point of construction, i plan to use slabs of stone at the deepest part of the pond to make a sort of hollow "room" so that if the pond gets dangerously low, that the water will be entirely covered by a stone "room" so as to radically slow evaporation
on the north, and windside of the pond, also the side that gets the most sun in summer (remember sun moves northward in summer and southward in winter) i plan to have tall, thick plantings such as shrubs and tall sunchokes, possibly bamboo if it will survive so as to cause a large amount of drifting snow in the winter, such that the pond will receive much more actual water than the annual average rainfall of 11.5
i also plan to have some rock stacks near and above the pond in HOPES that it will one cause enough condensation to feed the pond during fog events and two, cause snow to melt fast enough to avoid most sublimation, and three, to attempt capture of sublimated snow via condensation again and reduce some of the water lost should sublimation occur
also a tall, shading tree somewhere near the pond, such as a willow, to help reduce sun exposure as much as possible
i am basically creating a big hole that will be filled by a catchment area that is greatly increased in size due to design (as i see deep holes and places with large catchment areas seperately fill with water during large rain events and am hoping this will keep it mostly full for me) and doing everything i can to reduce evaporation rates and increase water catchment and retention
There are lots of options, and a thorough site assessment is usually my first step to define the context. Then you can determine fine tune and prioritize your options list. Contour mapping, soils survey, test pits, local economy/markets, wind, water, fire, animals, skillsets, goals, budgets, geologic history, plants, local current and historic cultures. not necessarily in this order.
If you are looking at ways to make your land more productive (that you can combine or synergize with Holzer's techniques if you like), then you might be interested in our Montana Whole Farm Fertility Course.
If you would like to participate in a 5-day immersion in the concepts of Holistic planned grazing and Keyline Design, then come to our workshop in June in Wilsall, Montana. we will be demonstrating the use of the Yeomans Plow, surveying for Keyline Design, Pasture assessment, and more.