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Harvesting rainwater with dams on drylands

 
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I have alot of water runoff into my property. Is it a good idea to build dams to harvest this runoff?

We are located in Cyprus. It gets extremely hot here in Summer and very dry. Most of the rainfall is within 3 months. About 400 mm.

I want to build surface dams to catch runoff and use the water for irrigation in dry seasons and also home use. Also maybe farming fish, frogs etc.

What are your suggestions?
 
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
744
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
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In drylands it is better not to store water in dams due to evaporation, which causes salts to build up in the water, damaging the soil. It is better to store the water in the soil and in perennial plants. Building swales on contour and check dams in gullies are a couple effective ways to stop water from running across the land and to get it to sink into the soil. In drylands water can safely be stored in large enclosed tanks, but these can be expensive to buy or build.

Here are some links which might help:



http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

http://www.watershedartisans.com/Erosion_Control_Field_Guide.pdf

http://geofflawton.com/
 
Y Yusuf
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Yes I understand. I plan on building contour swales and possibly Gabions to store water under the soil. But I also need surface water to use for shallow rooted trees in their first few years. This is my dilemma.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think if you make a dam relatively deep compared to the surface area, you can avoid some of the evaporation problem. If you can construct a dam in a gully (which takes proper engineering) you can store many more gallons of water than if you simply dig a hole in a low flat space.

Here are some links about dams:

http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farm-management/managing-dams/a-gully-dam-or-a-hillside-dam

http://www.regrarians.org/off-the-contour-7-earth-dam-design/

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/soils/buildingafarmdam.pdf
 
Y Yusuf
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https://i.imgur.com/gOj0iW6.jpg

Here's a picture of where I'm thinking of building the dam. Just below the structure.
 
Tyler Ludens
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That hillside looks like it gets extra water, the grass seems thick there. Is that from water off the roof? If so it could certainly be directed down toward the dam. It's definitely worth a try making a dam. I think in Bill Mollison's "Designers Manual" he shows open water dams in deserts shaded by trees. Obviously you won't have trees right away, but you might be able to plant some to eventually shade the pond to slow evaporation. Also to act as a windbreak.

 
Y Yusuf
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Yes I'm thinking trees also posibly grape vines if I can find a way to suspend them over the dam.

Actually the hills are the border of the property. But you are right I am thinking of building contour swales at the bottom of these hills and have them flow into the dam.

The dam will be located just in front of the concrete structure. That is the path of a major waterway coming from the mountains. Not sure how much water flows from there. I'm guessing quite a bit when it rains. I'm hoping to capture most of that water.

Does any one know if you have to seal the dam or will it just seal itself in time?
If not what's the best way to naturally seal it?

Thanks
 
Tyler Ludens
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Generally dams are sealed by compacting them as they're being built. http://www.aboutcivil.org/How-build-small-dams-Construction.html

If the pond leaks after being built some people seal them with a technique known as "gleying" in which animals are fed in the pond so their manure and trampling makes a biological seal.

Here's a thread about gleying with pigs: https://permies.com/t/38201/ponds/Progress-Gleying-Pond-Pigs

One of Geoff Lawton's videos talks about gleying with ducks: http://geofflawton.com/videos/fixing-a-leaky-pond-with-ducks/

Our upstream neighbor built a dam in the seasonal creek without compacting it properly and it completely washed out during the flood this Spring, sending all the dam material, including their old asphalt driveway chunks, onto our land. It isn't really something an amateur should attempt. Our neighbor across the road had a proper pond built and it took a guy with a bulldozer a few days to dig and compact it, and it holds water nicely. It is not on the creek channel, either.



 
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