I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

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Sepp's Spring Terrace  RSS feed

 
Zach Weiss
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Visiting the Krameterhof and Holzerhof this past fall I saw a TON of incredible, simple, logical, natural, techniques. Without a doubt this was what I consider to be the most important, the most revolutionary.

sepp holzer made a spring where there was none. This is not to be confused with the springs that return after he repairs the water retention. This happens too, and is most fantastic, but the spring at the Holzerhof was even more impressive. This spring was made only with terraces (a three terrace system), in the hottest, driest part of Austria. The experts said there was no water, that he was stupid for trying, and now he has 5 liters/minute drinking water for his home.


The First Terrace of Sepp's Three Terrace Spring System


A very natural looking Earth Stable on the Second Terrace of the System

The spring is composed of a pipe laid in the heel of the bottom terrace of a 3 terrace system. While digging his test pit he came across a very hard clay layer in the soil strata. On this large terrace (about 20m wide) at the heel he went through the process of casing a spring, only there was no spring. He laid out about 100 m of pipe on top of this hard clay layer (that ranged from 3-6 meters in depth) and then filled it with 30cm (about 1 foot) of 12-16mm (1/2”-3/4”) round WASHED gravel. The pipe pitches down hill (following this clay layer) to the middle of the terrace and then feeds into a cistern down hill. The cistern allows the water to build a head pressure and then feeds downhill to the house.


Bottom Terrace of the System, with pipe laid along the length of the terrace in the heel.



When he completed it there was already a tiny amount of water dripping into the cistern. This increased over time and is now 5 liters/minute every day of the year, no matter what climate extremes are being experienced. We were there at the end of the worst drought in the last decade, still 5 liters per minute, drinking water, supplied passively to his house. 7,000 liters per day, enough for several families.

The canopy cover of the food forest (a mature agro-forestry system dominated by nut trees) shades the soil so that it is better able to absorb rainfall. Humidity in the air also condenses on the leaves providing additional moisture. The terraces slow and spread the water, allowing it to sink even deeper into the earth body. The hard clay layer that Sepp found holds the water above this layer. The pipe collects some of the water in the earth body that is held up by this layer.

 
Miles Flansburg
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What a beautiful place !

Thanks for explaining this more, we had an old thread around here somewhere that mentioned the spring and this helps make it more clear.
 
Jordan Lowery
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you are awesome for posting this!
 
Garry Hoddinott
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That really is something! And something for nothing - water where there was none!
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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This is wonderful! I have to confess when I first clicked on the link, I was thinking he had created the season "spring" while it's still winter. LOL Guess I am ready to get back to the growing season!

Enjoyed the pictures, thanks!
 
Michael Cox
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This is such an elegant solution - quite specific soil conditions to make it work with the clay layer. I bet it could be repeated elsewhere though, perhaps even without that layer in place. I wonder what the infrastructure would cost, vrs setting up another water source (eg borehole, pump, solar power...). Plus you get the level growing area of the terraces to work with which Sepp may have wanted to build anyway.
 
Lyvia Dequincey
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So how does one "discover" a clay layer like that? Just years of digging projects on the same land, or are there clues I might find on my land? We have lots of clay around, and I can find out the name of the soil type, but I don't know how to get from that to finding usable features.

 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Lyvia Dequincey wrote:So how does one "discover" a clay layer like that? Just years of digging projects on the same land, or are there clues I might find on my land? We have lots of clay around, and I can find out the name of the soil type, but I don't know how to get from that to finding usable features.



I would like to know that, too. I know what soil type I have but how does one go about knowing what is deep underground without hiring a geologist or q geo-mancer? (water witcher?)
 
Len Ovens
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Valerie Dawnstar wrote:
Lyvia Dequincey wrote:So how does one "discover" a clay layer like that? Just years of digging projects on the same land, or are there clues I might find on my land? We have lots of clay around, and I can find out the name of the soil type, but I don't know how to get from that to finding usable features.



I would like to know that, too. I know what soil type I have but how does one go about knowing what is deep underground without hiring a geologist or q geo-mancer? (water witcher?)


It sounds from the explanation, that the spring was not something that was planned from the start, but rather something that came from an opportune find. I am not a geologist, but I would think that this is not a real uncommon thing... however, if you are living on top of a gravel pit things may be harder. What is not stated is how far back the clay layer goes, it may underlay the whole hillside. So I don't know if the clay layer could be replaced by a layer of pond liner in the bottom swale. I think, as with everything permaculture, using what nature has left you means the solution must be different for each piece of land. This is not the only way to get water, just one that happened to work out well. The real trick is in seeing the opportunity when it comes along. This system was put in on speculation with no surety of how much it would produce. If it had only produced 1/10 of the amount it does it would still have been worth while.
 
neil bertrando
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So how does one "discover" a clay layer like that? Just years of digging projects on the same land, or are there clues I might find on my land? We have lots of clay around, and I can find out the name of the soil type, but I don't know how to get from that to finding usable features.


you dig down to find out what your soil profile is at various regions on your land. "test pits" and you collect this data and assess the differences at various elevations and locations. correlate with soil and geologic maps you can find from NRCS and USGS free online. tools you can use are shovel, excavator, drill, etc. depending on what you have available and how deep you want to go.
 
Chris Vincent
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sounds very similar to the way a vertical well is installed... in fact one could probably do something similar with a horizontal boring rig or even jet a spring using a well jetting setup.
At 5l a minute the water could be used to cool your house in summer, like one big spring house.
Cool stuff
 
Zach Weiss
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Michael Cox wrote:quite specific soil conditions to make it work with the clay layer... I wonder what the infrastructure would cost, vrs setting up another water source (eg borehole, pump, solar power...)


It is a specific set of soil conditions to make this possible, but this soil condition is quite common in the right parts of the landscape. As water erodes it also sorts the material, by depositing similarly dense materials at the same time. Having a constrictive clay layer deep in the horizon is quite common, I have yet to do an earthworks project where this is not the case. Even on a farm with gravel-cobble soil, with a gravel pit next door, we were still able to find a water tight clay layer in the soil horizon (in this case it was very deep).

As for set-up cost vs another water source, barely comparable. Recently they installed a borehole well with pump and solar power on a farm I am involved with, it was around $25,000 all said and done. This spring terrace on the other hand would cost around $5,000, and that's giving the operator a ton of time to get it done. There is something much more important going on here though. A borehole is a ecologically destructive method of attaining water, furthermore it is inferior quality to spring water. Sepp likened it to the earth as a human body, harvesting the sweat or a small cut is not very damaging. Sticking a needle into someone's arm and drawing as much blood as you can is much more destructive. Do this enough and the person will surely die. The blood deep in our bodies is what supplies our most important organ, our skin.

Lyvia Dequincery wrote:So how does one "discover" a clay layer like that? .... I can find out the name of the soil type, but I don't know how to get from that to finding usable features.


Just like Neil mentioned you dig test slices to observe the soil horizons. Sand is the first to be deposited by the water as it hits the inflection point between erosion and deposition, followed by silt, followed by clay. When the water hits flat spots where it looses momentum, it heats up and becomes lazy, dropping it's sediment. Looking for these points on the landscape is how you determine where to dig your test slices. I always get the soils information first from the NRCS (Availble Here). That said, this often isn't very helpful because the sampling was on such a big scale. It will give you a general idea of the soil, but it doesn't take the differences within the landscape into account at all. I get it because it is free and easily available, but in my experience well logs are much more accurate and useful.



As for finding the usable features of the soil this is both easy and fun, build models with the material! If your not sure if a certain material will work for a pond or terrace build a to scale model and simulate catastrophic rainfall. Did it hold up? Does it hold water? Is it doing what you had intended? This is the action and observation that is so critical to Holzer Permaculture.

Len, I think your spot on that the hard clay layer was an opportune find and Sepp worked with the resources presented. I don't think the clay layer could be replaced with a pond liner either. The clay layer runs all the way up the slope, collecting all of this water.

Chris Vincent wrote:one could probably do something similar with a horizontal boring rig or even jet a spring using a well jetting setup


This hard clay layer ranged from 3m to 6m along the length of the terrace. With a horizontal boring rig you would be tied into the angle you start with, rather than being able to follow the layer. I don't think that this is a delicate enough tool for this operation.
 
Lorenzo Costa
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Hi Zach, thanks for the post it is fantastic. listen since I am about to start some earthworks on my land, in Italy, I am very interested in understanding how the tube part of the spring formation works. I have a lot of clay on some of my land and don't have direct water, perfect for earthworks, I am waiting for the dvd of Paul on this point I have always thought of harvesting water and have found an area where i feel that it is wet after rainfall, even a few days after. i want to understand how Sepp actually built the collection of the water with the tubes. could you explain it better? thanks
the nice thing is that where I wanted to build a pond is where I found the water the other day walking on my land after a few days of rain. it is the most clayish part of the land and it is in the highest part of the land.
I will try to post some more data on my situation but now I have to run to work
 
Fabrizia Annunziata
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Am I correct in understanding that this method requires hilly terrain? Could it be done on flat land?
 
Zach Weiss
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Lorenzo, it sounds like you have found the most natural spot for a pond! Watching where the water naturally collects during rainfall is a great way to analyze locations for a potential pond. Sounds like your on the right track, make sure to build a successful model with your material before getting to work with the excavator. After building a successful model with the on site materials then you should have a good idea of what you need to do to make sure everything functions as planned.

The pipe is solid, food grade, water line. You then cut slits with a circular saw in the top half of the pipe, this allows the water to percolate into the pipe. It's important to not have slits on the bottom, otherwise the water would not stay in the pipe, eventually leading to the cistern. This is very much the same as a french drain for construction purposes, or the way that you case a spring.

Fabrizia, topography is essential for this type of technique to work. Where your site lies in the watershed is even more important than the on site terrain. If your property is pretty flat, but at the base of a big hill or mountainside, then something like this may indeed be possible. If there is underground water flowing through your site it is also possible to case a spring to use some of that water. The topography of the land itself is not as important as where the property lies in the greater watershed.
 
Emily Aaston
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Would you use similar methods to restore/rejuvenate a dry stream bed?
 
neil bertrando
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some quick thoughts:

Make sure all ponds have spillways sized to match their watersheds characteristics

for dry stream beds it is dependent on your climate, topography, and watershed. Streams are very dynamic systems. I have posted some links and thoughts re: this on other permies threads.
http://www.permies.com/t/32684/videos/Geoff-Lawton-Fixing-Deserts-Gabions
http://www.permies.com/t/15484/permaculture/Induced-Meandering

the second thread is a bit old and needs some revision and updates, but a place to start.
 
Zach Weiss
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Emily Aaston wrote:Would you use similar methods to restore/rejuvenate a dry stream bed?


This technique is more for getting drinking water from a seemingly dry landscape, though lots of the techniques applied here would certainly fit for restoration of a dry stream bed. The terraces and agroforestry systems explained here could be used on the slopes, to help store climatic events in the earth's body. I wouldn't mess around with the pipe casing, unless if your goal is to establish a source of drinking water.

For a stream bed I would try my best to raise the level at which water flows on the barrier layer. This is done with key way dams, tied into the constrictive layer. The spring terrace is using drain pipe and gravel to harvest this water (providing the highest quality drinking water). On wheaton laboratories I would try to store every drop of rainfall I could within the earth, on top of this layer. For severely degraded landscapes just building a key way dam is not enough. One of the most important things Sepp relayed at the Holzerhof is that in his situation without the terraces the ponds would have been empty. Sure they would fill up when it rains but they would be dry by the end of the 3 month dry season they just had. It is the terraces and mother function of the trees that stores this water, so that even 3 months after the last rainfall water is still seeping from the landscape into the pond. It is all tied together as a cohesive system, just like everything else.

Neil, great links and lots of very valid sentiments shared, thank you!
 
Lorenzo Costa
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Zach thanks encore! I'am thinking about the water harvesting from months, studying brad lancasters books and reading every web resource I find. I am writing my project for the land I have purchased and it is fantastic just to think about every aspect. there is no hous eon the land and I will build it in two years, for now I am starting to build the earth's fertility since it is a very disturbed site, although it is abandoned from 7 years (great thing that convinced me to buy). my neighbour has a spring that starts flowing by it's self in certain months and he sais something like that could happen even on my land. I am walking all over it when I can but it's 5.6 hectares of woodland, forest, olive trees and pastures and I have to do a lot of classifying. the nice thing is that I see what many of the things I read when I wlak on my land. I see different biotypes, microclimates and see the succession in the forest or the way trees and plants grow occupying pastures that are abandoned, I see watersheds and see them everywhere now in any place explainig my son how water flows.
My land is terraced so it is surely easy to think about a work like Sepp's. the slope of our properties is very important and from keyline on to Sepp's ideas if you reason about this aspect you understand that it is the most important thing of all. and it can be easily used for many purposes even if it is just slight.
to finish thanks to all this is the best resource on the web for learning and discussing, to the whole team on permies.com Thanks!!! anywhere in the wrld one can gave great info
 
Amedean Messan
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Wow, very nice Zach! Thanks for sharing.
 
Jesse Biggs
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Zach, I've very much enjoyed reading the things you've been posting. This is something I want to really wrap my head around. Based on what I'm seeing above, I've come up with a digital model to try and understand better. Would you please take a look and help me fix it so it's more accurate?
springterraces.jpg
[Thumbnail for springterraces.jpg]
 
Lorenzo Costa
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wow! Jesse Biggs awesome! if Zach sais the drawing is accurate all this thread with the comments that actually explain the way it works can be archived as a handy guide. the contribution many of you give is exceptional thanks. I am honored to be part of this world, and hope one day to be capable of giving such help to others.
 
Zach Weiss
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Awesome Jesse! Thanks for taking the time to do that, it is a great addition to this thread.

Can you attach the sketchup file and I will review it in more detail? I'm very glad that people are able to make at least some sense form my rambling. I can't read some of the red writing you've got on there.

I just posted a 3D Model of the Holzerhof

I've circled where the 3 terraces are on the landscape here:


As far as what I can tell from the picture you have nailed the concept in your model. The cistern is a little bit further downhill, but that's a pretty minor detail. It also looks to me that the proportions are off a bit, if the trench is actually 3 meters deep on the near side then it is a little too wide and the pipe too big. But again these are minor details. The only big thing is that in addition to the lengthwise slot pipe coming towards view from the cistern feed line, there is another just as long, going away from view. Great work Jesse! You really nailed the concept, if you attach the model I'm happy to review it in more detail and add my thoughts.
 
Jesse Biggs
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Zach Weiss wrote:I can't read some of the red writing you've got on there.

I just posted a 3D Model of the Holzerhof

As far as what I can tell from the picture you have nailed the concept in your model. The cistern is a little bit further downhill, but that's a pretty minor detail. It also looks to me that the proportions are off a bit, if the trench is actually 3 meters deep on the near side then it is a little too wide and the pipe too big. But again these are minor details. The only big thing is that in addition to the lengthwise slot pipe coming towards view from the cistern feed line, there is another just as long, going away from view. Great work Jesse! You really nailed the concept, if you attach the model I'm happy to review it in more detail and add my thoughts.


Zach, if you click on the image it should zoom you in a bit so you can read the text.

The proportions are definitely not to scale. I was using feet and inches so the pipe and trench are more visible.

So the slotted pipe runs something like 50 meters horizontally in both directions from the cistern pipe?

Thanks for the response. Here's the file:



Filename: springterraces.skp
File size: 239 Kbytes
 
Zach Weiss
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Ahh! It was right under my eyes. Looking over the model it looks even better than in the picture! The trench width is actually appropriate (in reality this is determined by the excavator bucket) and pipe reasonable (you have 8" Sepp most commonly uses 6"). The only big thing is that it is 3' deep not 3 meters, so in reality it is much deeper. I know you have it labeled as 3 meters and this is for conceptual purposes, but just to clarify as people are wrapping their head around this, proportionally the trench is more than 3 times this deep.

Exactly, the slotted pipe runs about 50 meters in both directions from the cistern pipe. The cistern pipe is located at the low point of this hard clay layer (the 6 meter depth). This way both slotted pipes pitch to the middle, where the cistern feed pipe carries the water into the cistern.

Thanks for the great model Jesse to help clarify this concept!
 
Jesse Biggs
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I'll get it fixed and prettied up a bit and repost.
 
Julia Winter
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Thanks for posting this, Zach! What an amazing story - drinking water from the forest above your house. I suppose it only works if you own all the land to the peak, so you are confident about the watershed. I hope Paul can find a similar layer of heavy clay on his land somewhere - they could really use such a spring!
 
Davin Hoyt
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Meant to be a conceptual drawing...
HumusWell.jpg
[Thumbnail for HumusWell.jpg]
Concept: Humus Well
 
Steven Kovacs
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This is fascinating!

Has anyone ever used a similar technique to divert water coming through the soil down a hill to avoid a house? We live at the bottom of a hill with clay soil and lots of rainfall (44"/year, plus 44" of snow) and the water table is very high from water coming down the hill; this results in a wet basement. I'd love to put something in to divert some of that water from the house.

The foundation is 100 year old stone, and waterproofing the outside of it is out of the question financially; I'd love to find a way to divert the water so we don't have to waterproof the inside of the basement.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Steven Goode wrote:This is fascinating!

Has anyone ever used a similar technique to divert water coming through the soil down a hill to avoid a house? We live at the bottom of a hill with clay soil and lots of rainfall (44"/year, plus 44" of snow) and the water table is very high from water coming down the hill; this results in a wet basement. I'd love to put something in to divert some of that water from the house.

The foundation is 100 year old stone, and waterproofing the outside of it is out of the question financially; I'd love to find a way to divert the water so we don't have to waterproof the inside of the basement.


Permies may be able to advise if you provided more thorough strata information.
 
Zach Weiss
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Davin: I think it is a bit misleading to call this a humus well as it is not the humus that is important but rather the impermeable layer, just like any other spring.

Personally I have no attachment to any name over another, I'm just thinking that calling it a humus well may confuse and mislead people unintentionally.
 
Steven Kovacs
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Davin Hoyt wrote:
Steven Goode wrote:This is fascinating!

Has anyone ever used a similar technique to divert water coming through the soil down a hill to avoid a house? We live at the bottom of a hill with clay soil and lots of rainfall (44"/year, plus 44" of snow) and the water table is very high from water coming down the hill; this results in a wet basement. I'd love to put something in to divert some of that water from the house.

The foundation is 100 year old stone, and waterproofing the outside of it is out of the question financially; I'd love to find a way to divert the water so we don't have to waterproof the inside of the basement.


Permies may be able to advise if you provided more thorough strata information.


Thanks. How would I get that information? Do I need to dig test pits, and if so how big (and numerous) would they have to be to be useful?
 
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