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Legality of Swales

 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I am fascinated by this subject of greening the desert. I have read through the forums and watched a lot of videos. Amazing stuff.

I keep coming back to one question. It was my understanding that in most of the western United States due to water rights issues, the impeding or impounding of water is illegal in most cases. Are swales not considered impeding at least? I would love to implement these techniques in a coulee in Eastern Washington State. However, I fear a visit from the local and state Gestapo as soon as the first green appear.

How do swales fit into the North American desert model? How does one do it legally?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Mark Shepard has the PC terminology.

They are erosion control devices, but I don't remember the exact phrase.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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In Paul's world domination video he talks about how there are certain height requirements of a dam or earth work before it is recognized by departments of sadness. It might depend on your city and state, but my understanding was that if your just under the height limit than all you have is simple landscaping, not technically a dam. Since there are no official guidelines for landscaping, no one has the legal right to tell you how to do it.
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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In Utah, the water that falls on your land is yours and the water that flows across your land belongs to the state.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Bill Bradbury wrote:In Utah, the water that falls on your land is yours and the water that flows across your land belongs to the state.


...but you are severely limited as to the size of storage you are allowed, so the water that falls on your land is only partly yours. So far, restrictions have been limited to impoundment structures (ponds, reservoirs, tanks, etc.). Increasing the storage capacity of your soil has not yet been deemed illegal, but if a lot of folks do it, I am sure some enterprising water lawyer would pursue restrictions.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 702
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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R Scott wrote:Mark Shepard has the PC terminology.

They are erosion control devices, but I don't remember the exact phrase.


basically this ^^^

if someone from the govt is giving you grief, you are simply talking to the wrong dept.

go across the hall and you may find that department will give you money to do what you are wanting to do

get on NRCS website and start learning how to name your improvements
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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When I was looking at some fairly steep land (in WA), I came up with the idea of digging multiple swales along contour.
Obviously, you cannot do this when the soil is wet, so it must be done before the rainy season.

These were not swales.
They were where I planned to plant my potatoes, using the soil from the berm to cover the pants as they grew.
They would act as errosion control. Not water hoarding, just good agricultural practices.
(You may wish to fill them with compost, or other water retentive organic matter while you wait for spring.)
If, in the spring time, I changed my mind, and planted my potatoes elsewhere, so-be-it.

Generally, the water cops only investigate if there has been a complaint.
If you have the only green land in the region, some neighbors are bound to make a complaint.

WA state is fairly easy going about rainwater catchment compared to most other western states.
You are allowed to catch every drop that falls on any structure on your property - firewood shed, chicken coop, etc.
(A 10' x 16' chicken coop will capture 100 gallons for each inch of rain - no sense carrying buckets of water to your hens.)
About the only restriction is that you may not make a structure solely for catching water, so put that roof to some utilitarian use.
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Thank you all for your responses. That clears things up and gives me some peace of mind.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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