OK, this morning I've lost all my faith in my own permaculture ability, and this all because of underground rivers. Would there be anyone here that understands the water management issues in the Yucatan, where we have only underground rivers. I was just looking at all the edges and getting to grips with our new land and refining the permaculture plan here as we speak, and all of a sudden it hit me .. if our local area only has underground rivers, what am I doing trying to manage water on the ground, berms and swales and ponds and stuff? All I was trying to do, was to find a good space and in the flow for a plunge pool for the hot summer and figuring out how to deal with the edges and all my faith in myself just escaped me (grins).
Underground rivers? and deep Cenotes, and we're making berms and swales and raised beds and an area for hugelkultur while water here is underground in rivers? Kindly help me restore my faith in the basics of permaculture given that we have underground rivers.
No, we get huge amounts of rain especially in the wet season. (Two seasons, wet and dry basically). In wet seasons it really has to pound down to have water running over the earth or the land. It all kinda disappears quite quickly into the earth and underground rivers - the land is quite porous.
I was just thinking about the overall environment ... there are no big bodies of water, or rivers. There are rivers, but they are underground - for example, if one digs a well, you will find water mostly anywhere and everywhere, the first aquifer being as little as 7 meters down in areas, or 20 in other areas, and the 2nd aquifer being just underneath that in our area. It is like .. well, if our environment does not have water in dams or in riviers, are we doing the right thing with a system of berms and swales and all the other permaculture standby basic methodologies? are we not working against our environment?. Basically I am now questioning again, and from the beginning.
Really interesting situation, thanks for sharing. I don't have any specific advice, but have the following thoughts. Remember that swales, raised beds, etc are just techniques, they are not principles nor stand-bys, they are only useful in appropriate context (climates/landforms/etc). So go back to the principles and gather baseline data.
Swales have many functions, one of which is to slow overland sheet flows of water, which causes erosion. Are there obvious erosion examples? If so, swales might still be useful.
Raised beds help plants grow in the tropics when the soil is water logged. Does the soil become water logged in the rainy season? If so, they might still be appropriate.
Maybe we can think of those underground rivers as your aquifer or water table. Water is still being held in the soil, plants are still drawing water from the soil, and I doubt they are taking it directly from the underground rivers. Although that is a good question that I don't have an answer to. So, manage water to minimize erosion and manage soil to increase its water holding capacity.
As for the plunge pool, my gut tells me that would be harder, but again I don't know the context. Maybe you'll have to go above ground with ferrocement.
Hope that helps at all. Please continue to share!
Co-Director and Farm Manager
Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica
posted 4 years ago
Thank-you for the suggestions.
After pondering this issue deeply, wandering around wondering (grins), I think I have developed some ideas. This thread really helped :
If you read through the thread, you will see that people are coming to an idea that in karst conditions, building up rather than digging down seems to work better. Also masses of organic matter ... So, for us, I think we're thinking of stone terracing some of the low hills and filling the terraces with organic matter, almost hugelkultur style. The landscape lends itself to this. For the lower lying deep earth fertile areas, again, masses of organic matter and raised beds, rather than swales, but this is not for sure yet - still pondering.
It seems on the surface as if this landscape will be ideal for hugelkultur. My neighbor tried some, and felt that the heavy rains just washed too much of the mounds away. I have not seen this but will go take a look.
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