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Bulldozer for water retention swales

 
Matt Banchero
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Hey folks. I'm posting to a few big earth moving forums about using bulldozers for desert swaling.

I thought this might be of interest to you guys. I'll come back and share if I get any useful responses from actual bulldozer operators.






I am new to the board and new to heavy equipment.

I am a licensed contractor. I own and operate a tree service, climbing and taking down large hazard trees near houses. I use a compact track loader and small excavator for my work. I also design small industrial wood processing equipment. Although, at 35 years old I am looking for a less physical way to make a living.

I am very interested in broad acre restoration work and I would like to learn more about harnessing the power of large equipment to do earthworks for long term, large scale water retention in the landscape. One idea of particular interest to me is using a bulldozer in the desert to cut swales, exactly on contour, to intercept surface water flow and hold the water back from flooding so it can soak into the ground. (I know that big ag tractors now have satellite tech for plowing on contour to reduce erosion, so that tech should translate fairly easily.)

There are many examples of this work being done around the world including some projects done (by hand) in the Arizona desert by the CCC some 70 years ago that are still working well today.

Here is a small bulldozer being used for this purpose.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FRkQpTai8E



I would be interested in figuring out how to do this work in a single pass rather than going back and forth 3 or 4 times.

I'm hoping someone with some practical experience will indulge me in helping me to find the answers to a few questions. In turn, if anyone is interested in this stuff, I would be happy to share all of my resources to point you to more information as well.

1. A typical desert swale is usually built with an excavator measuring about 3' deep and about 10' to the back of the cut. The excavated earth is loosely piled on the down hill side. In desert systems the longer the swale the better, even running for miles and miles. What sized bulldozer would one need to cut a swale in one pass that is 3' deep and 10' to the back of the cut, in severely compacted desert soil conditions? D6? D9?

2. What speed could an appropriately sized bulldozer do this work? I imagine this number would be represented as a range.

3. Roughly, how much fuel per hour would be used?


Random facts...
Around the globe there are approx 2 Billion acres of degraded or desertified land. (lots of opportunity for improvement)

A mile of desert swale set at dead level (so the water doesn't flow but just soaks in) will intercept and soak in approx. 1.8 acre feet of water per rain event!!! Even in some of the harshest deserts in the world they will still get a small handful of rains in a year filling the swales several times.

The vision....
In the right environment a dedicated bulldozer could cut swales for it's 20,000hr useful life. (bullshit numbers here) If the dozer could cut 1/4 mile an hour for 20,000 hrs that's 5,000 miles of swales. 5,000 miles of swale filling 3 times a year is approx. 27,000 acre feet per year times the number of years the swale is in service. Based on the evidence in Arizona that maybe well over 100 years.

1/4 mile/hr x 20,000hrs=5000miles

5000 miles x 1.8 acre feet/mile=9000 acre feet per rain event

9000 acre feet per rain event x 3 rain events per year=27,000 acre feet/year

27,000 acre/ft/yr x 100 years=2.7 million acre feet

Imagine that...one bulldozer and perhaps one operator, storing 2.7 million acre feet of water

I find that very exciting and I think it is perhaps the most potent use of our current technology to heal our planet.

I welcome all comments and questions...even those calling me a crazy dreamer.

Many thanks.

Matt Banchero

www.TheTreeHuggingTreeCutter.com

https://www.youtube.com/user/MatthewBanchero/videos



 
Bryant RedHawk
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I'm thinking you would have better success with a heavy duty, plow type, snow blade instead of the standard Dozer Blade. This would dig, shape and deposit the berm all in one operation which would eliminate the need for multiple passes to accomplish the same end.

As far as size of the dozer, I would think the machine would need to be at least a D-9T.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Since we're talking broadacre or large application here, I am thinking like you are, Matt, that a swale must be able to be completed in one pass to protect the landscape from the machine itself and reduce time fuel consumption via wasted passes. I would think there is room here to fabricate a one-pass, swale-forming implement for heavy equipment. It would have to form the ditch and the berm. The engineering firm I work for designed GPS-BIM technology that feeds data right to the controls of the dozer that sets and guides the blade to be a consistent depth and negotiate any in-ground infrastructure. This could easily be set to absolute zero contour or some minute fraction of grade for a given distance.

Bear with me here ... I'm seeing something like a plow grinder with a large diverting moldboard as stage one and something similar to those industrial compost turners as stage two that moves it from the ditch over to the berm and then stage three is a form the trails it all leaving a formed berm behind. Two of these piece already exist. Maybe this could be pulled and powered by a large tractor/PTO or maybe it's part of a dozer type machine.

Is this crazy?
 
Matt Banchero
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I like the way you guys think!!

Maybe two smaller bulldozers would work better than one big one. A standard dozer with a couple rippers to prep the ground and a dozer following with the tilt blade and moldboard.

I've never run a dozer, but maybe a couple D5's or D6's would work as well as a D10 and have a lighter foot print.



 
R Scott
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There are farm machines called v plow ditchers for making drainage ditches in flat land, used in the delta's and high plains. The ones used in Canada are huge and articulated. It would take much to add laser and GPS control. They can dig wide shallow ditches, with adjustment they could make swales. 4wd and tracked machines only, and some require 400+ hp.

It is still a horsepower and traction problem. You can only move so much dirt at a time before you stall, spin out, or get pushed sideways.

Maybe a machine like an asphalt grinder with a conveyor belt to carry the dirt and make the mound.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Yup, R Scott, that's exactly what I was thinking.

And, since we're imagining ...

What about something similar to a small-diameter tunnel boring machine. They are designed to cut through the earth and covey the material to the back where it can be removed and piled in a berm. That could be your front implement. I know we're getting way too complex here, but it's fun and it's Christmas Eve. Is there a day the imagination of a child is more active than on Christmas Eve? (oh, I forgot, I'm often like a child, sorry )
 
R Scott
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Dan Grubbs wrote:Yup, R Scott, that's exactly what I was thinking.

And, since we're imagining ...

What about something similar to a small-diameter tunnel boring machine. They are designed to cut through the earth and covey the material to the back where it can be removed and piled in a berm. That could be your front implement. I know we're getting way too complex here, but it's fun and it's Christmas Eve. Is there a day the imagination of a child is more active than on Christmas Eve? (oh, I forgot, I'm often like a child, sorry )


YouTube for a rotary ditcher machine. It already exists. Works as long as you don't have rock. And have a really big tractor. Use Grant Shultz method for GPS keyline and go. It won't make the back cut, though. Or tight curves.

Is the goal to maximize feet per hour or feet per gallon of diesel or feet per total amortized cost? One machine to do it all is seldom the cheap or best quality answer, but it solves the labor problem.
 
Jack Edmondson
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You guys have the wheels turning here. I found this digging around. Called a martin ditcher it is for run off ditches. It could be scaled up for a tractor.

Martin ditcher
Used to build road beds or make run-off ditches, simple tools like the Martin ditcher can allow people to improve their local infrastructure.
 
Jack Edmondson
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And the 'one and done' option.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hau, Jack, That certainly goes into the "Cool Tools" section. Wish I had some oxen. Definitely awesome for making swales and ditches. Thanks for the photos of it working.
 
elle sagenev
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I think a motor grader would be easier than a bulldozer for that.
 
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