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Sepp making lakes (specifically the hydrological costs)  RSS feed

 
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emerson white
I suppose you were joking about being dense and obtuse people dont usually call themselves dense seriously . Still you do claim to be scientific and methodical or some such which is about the same. I dont really think it the same.   I do appreciate the opportunity to defend water harvesting which would not be so complete if there was no body argueing with it. You are not taking water from anyone in the wet season, ifyou better your soil so it holds more water, at least in Spain there is water to wet everyones land in that season and this winter for example i would be very suprised if the resevoirs had not totally filled up. In other winters that might not be the case still in the centre of Spain we dont seem to have really bad water problems they do have more problems in the south of spain.  Anyway as i said before farmers are the main users of watercollected in resevoirs, they use it to irrigate , so if you can reduce their use of water, getting them to have feilds that absorb and retain more water, and to grow crops that are appropiate for the climate like wheat that ripens just as the dry season starts but not sweet corn that needs watering through the dry season, and getting the live stock eating grass instead of dry food sodry food means they need a lot of water, then you lessen farmers need for water. 
In india the recreation of old ponds that were not totaly water proof led to the rebirth of rivers and wells that had run dry and that in the Thar desert, an extreme desert if ever there was one. It is counter intuitive but it is said to work. Look it up.
     Also by collecting water from rooves, every house has an underground room for holding water from the roof there and they collect water that runs of areas  that have been paved to collect water, they reduce dependence on wells and rivers and so helping everyone to have more water. rose macaskie.
     
 
rose macaskie
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I do think people were Sepp head hunting bon this thread. The world seems to be divided into two different sorts of people, those who enjoy finding heroes and those who challenge heroes, to put it politely, who get really cross about the idea of anyone like Sepp to put it more roughly. Maybe it is hard to take other peoples heroes. Maybe he just  had more competition as a child and that made him try harder than most, but he does seem to be good at it. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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  Emerson White the ground may lose heat at night too if its covered with vegetaion but the thing is it would not heat up so much during the day if it were aislated from the sun.
if the weather is really hot and there is not shade dotn you find ithingas are better if you put a hat on dotn you go also into the house to cool down from beign in the sun. agri rosemacaskie.
 
            
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rose macaskie wrote:
I do think people were Sepp head hunting bon this thread. The world seems to be divided into two different sorts of people, those who enjoy finding heroes and those who challenge heroes, to put it politely, who get really cross about the idea of anyone like Sepp to put it more roughly. Maybe it is hard to take other peoples heroes. Maybe he just  had more competition as a child and that made him try harder than most, but he does seem to be good at it. agri rose macaskie.



I disagree. I'd wager the vast majority of people on these boards have more than a healthy modicum of respect for Holzer and his work. Just because he's worthy of admiration doesn't mean he's above scrutiny. Skepticism is an important tool in the advancement of knowledge. A pertinent example: I was just saying in another thread earlier today that while I have great respect and admiration for Joel Salatin, I'm not real keen on his use of low-profile chicken tractors. Now if I were to take his word at face value that it's a totally kosher practice, regardless of my gut instincts telling me otherwise and without even bothering to ponder it further, would I not be doing myself (and my chickens by proxy) a complete disservice in the name of hero worship?
 
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We've been talking about the seasonal streams that he dammed in portugal, not his property in the alps. I am not Sepp head hunting and I still like him very much, I really love what he does with hugle beds and with flat rocks as mulch, I just didn't agree with what had been said about the hydrology of his projects.
 
Mother Tree
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I don't actually know Tamera, but I'm not so very far away and I suspect I have a better feel for what goes on water and soil wise than most of you here. 

What I think a lot of you don't appreciate about Portugal is that the soil is seriously thin and the rains are seriously heavy and long, when they do finally appear.  There is no way that the soil can hold all that water.  The 'seasonal streams' don't so much just dry up during the summer, they *only* flow during and immediately after heavy rain.  When they are flowing, the soil is generally loaded up with more water than it can hold - our land becomes totally, utterly waterlogged for weeks on end, and we have water pouring in on it from a mostly-underground stream above the farm and also from our access road.  We managed to divert the water from the access road so that it just goes down to the lower part of the farm, but all that does is stop the worst of the waterlogging so close to the surface of the soil so we don't drown so many trees.  The rest of the soil is still utterly soaked right down the bedrock, which is on average about 18" down so it's pretty easy to check.  It takes about a week of continuous rain to reach this point, but the rain generally lasts for a month.  If it lasts six weeks instead of a month, we start to lose *lots* of trees.  I really don't see how diverting some of the excess surface water is going to stop underground aquifers recharging - the soil is still waterlogged and the bedrock is still absorbing water, and it's still pouring down with rain.  The lakes would just be creaming off some of the water that would otherwise be racing down adding to the water in the larger rivers. 

Of course, you'd have to design the lakes somehow so that you didn't completely stop the flow, but with the smaller torrents I don't think even that would make much difference.

Again, I haven't see the lakes in Tamera, but according to this article they aren't 'dams' as such.

http://www.algarve123.com/en/Articles/2-694/How_to_stop_desertification_in_Southern_Portugal

“A waterlandscape isn’t the same thing as a dam. It’s actually the complete opposite. Water isn’t diverted from lands and stored in one central point – it’s kept within the land, in a “decentralised” fashion, in a way that the earth’s soil can once more become saturated”, sepp holzer has explained this point many times previously...

Drought in this country isn’t a natural catastrophe. It’s the result of incorrect land use. Deforestation, excessive grazing and monocultures are all responsible for the diminishing of vegetation and onset of desertification”, he explains.

Passing through Southern Portugal, the farmer from Austria simply wants to close his eyes. “What I see here hurts. The landscape is bare, the soil and the plants are exposed without any protection from wind or sun. No animal can feel comfortable here. If I farmed this terrain, I would feel completely lost. Due to excessive grazing, the earth has been drained of water, with only poor quality wild plants left growing. Farmers give up, the younger generation moves off to the towns – and the most beautiful agricultural properties fall into neglect. Then speculators move in, leaving the land to be abandoned once more. Meantime, Portugal could so easily be a rich country – if only its people went back to learn from the book of Nature”.


Incidentally, I did what to my mind was the ultimate test of a theory short of actually starting to dig. I asked my other half, who never studies anything and always does what he thinks with no regard to what anyone else might believe, how he'd feel if someone dug a bloody big lake in the land just above ours.  "I wish they would - it would stop it flooding so bad here, and there'd be more water in the summer." 

I think Sepp's lakes are likely to be perfect for Portugal.  But I also suspect that if he traveled elsewhere then he'd do them differently. 
 
Emerson White
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I am pretty familiar with seasonal rains and thin soils, because New Mexico and Colorado have the same sort of thing going on. I suspect that they mean is that their lakes are not like reservoirs. Did you listen to the podcast? The word "dam" was used several times, and the guest even went so far as to mention that it was impregnated with clay to prevent water from seeping through, but that the remainder of the lake was not, to encourage the water to penetrate the soil. I suspect that this is what they are talking about when they say it spreads water into the landscape. I think to really take a good measure of the appropriateness of such a dam we don't need to know about the pattern of seasonal rainfall, or the type of soil, but rather we need to know what's going on downstream.
 
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I think downstream the people are getting flooding and erosion from excess water and would appreciate their upstream neighbors putting in water catchment.  At least I know for certain I would appreciate it, being in a flood plain here at my place! 
 
Burra Maluca
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Emerson White wrote:
Did you listen to the podcast? The word "dam" was used several times, and the guest even went so far as to mention that it was impregnated with clay to prevent water from seeping through, but that the remainder of the lake was not, to encourage the water to penetrate the soil.



Yes I did listen to it, and to be honest some of the things she said made me wince so hard I'd rather trust the quote from the article about “A waterlandscape isn’t the same thing as a dam. It’s actually the complete opposite. Water isn’t diverted from lands and stored in one central point – it’s kept within the land, in a “decentralised” fashion, in a way that the earth’s soil can once more become saturated”  As I remember, she thought that the Iberian Peninsular was part of Portugal (not vice versa), which immediately raised alarm bells that she wasn't sure what she was talking about, and she also gave the impression that she wasn't that sure about the clay when Paul pressed her about the subject.  And I certainly can't get my head around anyone that says 'I'm English so I went to boarding school' - I really have trouble with the blinkers the upper classes stick on their kids but here isn't the place to rant about that. 

One day I'll get down to Tamera and see for myself!  Until then I'll reserve judgement. 
 
Emerson White
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This will be far afield but the quote sounds like something a homeopath would say. If you have read up on homeopathy (and I've read the founding document, translated of course) you know that it is 100% absolutely and completely about treating symptoms (like cures like is like is that something that causes like symptoms will cure like symptoms), but the first thing a homeopath will tell you is that the problem  with westerns medicine is that they only treat symptoms and not underlying causes.

The way that they are saying a dam is not a technical one, but they are talking about the costs, most acutely the perceived costs of a reservoir. If you erase from the statement any claims that they make about themselves and just look at if from the claims they make about others you get "Water [is] diverted from lands and stored in one central point – it’s [not] kept within the land, in a “decentralised” fashion[; T]he earth’s soil [can't] once more become saturated", too me as an explanation of the characteristics of a dam that sounds bizarre. I think that what is truly and properly a dam can be used to do exactly what they represent themselves as doing in the quote, I suspect that they are just uncomfortable with the presuppositions that they have about dams.

Edit: I like what they have done more than I like Homeopathy, for the record.
 
Tyler Ludens
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“A waterlandscape isn’t the same thing as a dam. It’s actually the complete opposite. Water isn’t diverted from lands and stored in one central point – it’s kept within the land, in a “decentralised” fashion, in a way that the earth’s soil can once more become saturated”



Sounds like they might be infiltration basins rather than dammed ponds, lakes or reservoirs.  Dammed ponds, lakes and reservoirs are meant to hold water above the soil, basins allow the water to soak into the soil.

See: "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands" by Brad Lancaster
 
Emerson White
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But the part that is still identical is the dam part. It's like they took a diesel engine out of a VW bug and put it into a toyota, and then proceeded to talk about how the gas tank needs to be filled with Gas because Toyotas all run on gas.
 
rose macaskie
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  emerson white, it is not that dams might not be part of a water harvesting system but it is that sepp holzer merely makes ponds, he does not make dams as far as i can see. He digs holes in his land and i dug a tiny one this winter in a , in a key point in my garden,  i can spend hours cutting brambles but digging is not my thing yet or I would now have a big pòond, however give me a year or two and I will dig a big one, and the pond  fillled up easily with the heavy showers we have been having this year, so water harvesting may have nothing to do with dams and streams, my pond does not and i dont htink Sepps do either which is not to say tha tponds fed from streams do not have a place in water harvesting.

      I have put stones into my river, which is not mine as the river running through your land is not yours in Spain but public property. I put stones in to hold up the swift path of the water. I am just next village down from the nearest village to the peak on the central system called The Ocejon, and the water goes down my torrent all winter as a thin thread in a  crazy rush. I put in some stones because the fast fall of the torrent down through the garden cuts so deeply into the slope that I only thought to slow things up a bit when i first thought of building up stones in the river, I thought to stop erosion not to harvest water.

      I also wanted the river to look more normal with pools in it that would maybe hold fish. It seems to me reasonable to slow the current up a bit and if it weren't that people took  the stones out of rivers here in Spain, to judge from the look of them, heaven only knows why, my father says its the easiest source of stones for building, the stones the river erodes from the land up in the stream that end up in the river bed, the river would be full of them. There are some big stones that soon will fall out of the precipice sides of the river bed into the river that give evidence to this.
        I bet that even if the river is widened with the stones to slow it up the water that seeps into the earth under it will still sink to under the centre of the bed and go where the water that sank into the bed of this torrent has always gone. rose macaskie.
 
Emerson White
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Here is a photograph of the dam.
 
rose macaskie
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emerson white, I don?'remeber exactly when i started to read about water harvesting in India but it may well have been before i read about sepp holzer i found it tryign to get information on th eecological benefits of the feedign of the cranes there which lead to a more fertile desert because the caranes leave manure on it they feed the cranes because looking after animals and respecting them is a big part of  hinduism.  So this is a subject i came across as something that had reinstated rivers that had run dry in india, not something that i only knew of through Sepp who wants to grow more vegetable to enrich himself if you are to take the lowest account of him, htough ihe does seem to go around th eworld helping with problems in dry countries as well as havign a good little business of his own  so it is as if i came to it already holding a bit of evidence about its effecctiness for those down stream instead of questioning it effects down stream.

     I told you to read up about water harvesting in India in the Thar desert. The man who got streams running again is an ayruvedic doctor called Rajendra Singh, the rain catcher. The words Rajendra Sing water harvesting will get you a wikipedia account of him among other accounts of him and if you want a guru take his smiling face and hang his photo on your wall and refer your problems to him and his kind eyes will get you realising that you are sad and tired or some such. It is hard to talk of problems to unsympathetic people so hi sphoto might come in useful.  I  have no idea if he is a guru or not but his smile works for me.  

    I  have been reading about him again and water harvesting is a bit more complicated that it seemed to me from a first reading of the subject .
    He got a river running again but it was not just by spotting the landscape with ponds, he built a pond with the people of the place, those who would benefit from a bit more water, at the source of the river and then created small stop dams all the way down its bed, that was a  dry river bed that had not run in years. He says he was not looking to revive the river. I suppose that to put dams in a river bed is a fairly normal thing to do if you want to collect water, rivers run were the water collects so theie bed must be a good place to catch rain water. His party built 370 small dams along the Arvaric river and after a while the river revived.

      It seems that rajendar sing and his group of warter harvesters had rules about the use of the water collected in the river bed, only people without land could take water from the stream, so there are more ins and out to this subject than just putting dams on rivers.

         It seems his first project was in  a mining district and he put in ponds, johads, if you look up johad you can find out what type of pond this is, i think its a ponds created with a stop dam which holds up flood water on a feild and he did not get what he expected, a refilling of the water table and a revival of dead wells and rivers, so it seems he did expected to refill rivers though he says he did not and so they looked into it and found the water was filling galleries in the mines and so they did something about that and his ponds started to work and served to raise th ewater table and bring water to the farmers and householders of the region, not with out considerable resentment from the miners that got him a beating up. So his path  has been rough on occasion.

   One vilage he reinstated water in had after his ponds had been built and as a result of the ponds, water just 3 feet from the surface.
    In a way the ponds are not his he was not expert on water, he heard that what the villagers most wanted was water and seems to have collected information about old water collecting techniques and propelled an effort to reinstate the old water harvesting the villagers told him about rather than designing them himself.
     As it is complicated it seems that it might be a good idea to go and learn there craft from these water harvesters in the Thar desert.  

     Emerson White obviously this subject needs to be looked into carefully, it might be possible to simply hoard water and stop others from having any and pretend you wished to benefit the soil and your region but properly managed and in places like India each  village has it river water official, who decides how much water each preson is to get, properly managed the experience of water harvesters is that it brings water to more people not that it deprives people of water. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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Emerson White is that a stop dam to hold up flood water or a dam in a river?
 
Emerson White
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It is a dam on a seasonal stream, that picture (like this one) was taken just after it was first stopped up. Here is what it looks like when the reservoir they created is full


Here are more photos of the dam on the stream given that the rains in the area are not big enough to fill that large a lake from just the 400 acre property, they are catching water flowing from an upstream catchment area.

Edit, looking at that picture I think someone crudely photoshopped a lake in place, however that is what the water level is at now, so I'm not too worried about it.
 
rose macaskie
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  Emerson white you know we have always tended to flatten everything so that nature provided lots of dips for water to collect in and we have got rid of them, it is easier to work land that is flat, so if we put some dipback we are merely restoring the land to what it would have been. We have also straightened rivers and drained swamps.
  It is very hard to know if this pond in the photo is a good or bad idea without knowing a lot about the weather there and the use the owners are going to give the pond and such. agri rose macaskie.
 
Emerson White
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I agree that we need to know more about it to judge its merits. There was just talk about it not being a dam so I felt the urge to do some more research on the subject.
 
Burra Maluca
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I'm going to turn the tables a bit, because the discussion feels like it's going to slip into arguments about what is and what is not a dam and I've no way of getting to Tamera in the near future to ask about details and see, so, as I live in a similar region and it looks like we might have access to the machinery to dig out some kind of pond/lake/dam/infiltration basic this year, I'm wondering what everyone thinks is the most appropriate way to build it. 

My first concern is that the local wildlife is seriously struggling as so much land is now under eucalyptus and pine, and the few bits of grassland that are left don't really have any water supply.  I think this is why we have so many hares and things attempting to move onto our two acres of walled land as we have little artificial plastic lined ponds which they raid for water.  Below that two acres we have a longish strip of ten acres which is currently pretty well unused but my other half wants a biggish pond there to raise fish.  I'd like the pond to be of maximum benefit to us and the locality. 

Thoughts anyone? 
 
Tyler Ludens
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First of all you need to find out if your soil is suitable for a pond, if it will hold water.  If it won't, you'll need to figure out how to make it water tight (gley, clay, butyl liner?).  How will the pond be filled?  Seasonal creek? (see concerns above) Spring? On-site run-off?  Sky pond?
 
Emerson White
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Here is Tamera on google maps The stream appears to stop being seasonal about 20 km away from the dam, which is at the north end of the lake, I do not know if that pond at the south end is the complete "south lake" or just what existed before.
 
rose macaskie
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There ws some talk of all year round ponds on this thread, water harvesting ponds are often seasonal ponds, in india they collect rainwater when it rains for the dry season when the pond dries up, well, time to look elsewhere for water. The ponds of rainwater harvesting are not  a garden feature to be kept all the time, for decoration purposes.

      sepp holzer breeds fish so  i suppose it is then necesssary to keep the ponds all year round, I know nothing of breeding fish, so a whole other set of circumstances for Sepps ponds. 
      There are also a whole other set of circumstances for ponds in a water logged place like Brenda Groths, if you live were the water table is high and water is plentiful or too plentiful, then it is useful to know that if you dig down far enough you will have a pond that stays wet all year round. If you are water harvesting you dont mind you pond going dry. Do ponds also work to relieve water logged land of some of its water or do they only work to fill the water table?

         I have read somewhere that it is useful for wildlife if you have a pond, be it only for a few mounths a year, because ponds provide for a place for frogs to breed for one so providing  for wet land wild life is a reason to have ponds for many people. Goef Lawton always seems very pleased to have provided a habitat for animales and mushrooms and such.
        It seems there are ins and outs to this like, are you ponds clean? If the farmers up hill from you are using too many chemicals the pond may well not bevery clean. Have a pond, it may lead you to have a few arguements with neighbors uphill from you and so to play your part socially to keep things like chemicals to reasonable limits.
    The arabs who were livign in Spain for centuries and are famouse here for their water systems, in some places still in place here beleive that water should be kept running as still water may go off.
      Swales are only meant to run when it rains and a bit afterwards or that ¡s how i see it though part of the function of a pond in a desert place is to serve the inhabitants as a source of water. Maybe you can say there are two functions of water harvesting and the limits between them are not always clear that of filling the water table and that of having water. Collecting all the water that falls on a acre say in one spot can be good for the ecology of a place because when it is spread in a thinnish sheet over the ground it merely gets lost in evaporation, shile if you collect it you might put it to better ues.  Of course if you live in a wet place then any water course or pond you make may just remain agreably full.

         There is a nice you tube video of a man with a small town house garden who has built swales and ponds all over the place so as to harvest his rain water and a berm between his land and his neighbors to stop the water he might get going on to his neighbors land. He films his swales and ponds dry, before a rain event and films how they fill up with the rains and he talks of how many days they will probably stand before getting absorbed by the land or before the water in them evaporates. It is fun whatching how they fill up as the rainfall starts to pour off the roof and fill them. I should check out the video before writing this but in the main this is what was in the video, i am not sure about the berm.

         The village ponds in India are places on which a a crop can be grown when the water in them has gone.
         They are also places that have to be de-silted or they will silt up ,a bit of hard work maybe the silt can be used to enrich land crops grow on.
         Also Indian ponds can have a well next to the pond. As the pond fills the water table near it is a good plcae for a well. One of the ponds zen rain man has a video on in you tube has a well beside it and a a pottery in the middle, maybe because it is safe to have fires in the middle of a pond which makes it a good place for a pottery. It is a village pond an acre or two big I am not good at measurements, i would not know if somthing was two acres or four big two acres oois a rough guess of mine but not a small farm one. agri rose macaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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rose macaskie wrote:

  i  have read some whoere that it is uesfull for the wildlife if you have a pond if only for a few mounths a year, providign for frogs and such is a reason for having ponds.



We have a small old quarry on our place which in non-drought years holds water for a couple months, long enough for the frogs and toads to breed young.

They will breed in any puddle which lasts long enough for the tadpoles to grow legs.

 
Emerson White
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Tamera has fish, which tend not to do so well in a pond that only lasts a few months. I looked around the area on google maps and was struck my how much farming is going on on the flood channel, probably as a result of all the silt that has been deposited in it, and my the ribbon of bright green trees that follow the river bed all along its course, can anyone tell me what kind they are? I have been unable to calculate to catchment area because I can't seem to find a topographical map of the area. There are several other ponds near by however, that seems to be the preferred method in the area.
 
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Brenda Groth wrote:
what about the people downstream that lose all their water?



They typically lose their water in the middle of flooding season.  So, less flood.  And then the ponds tend to leak in the summer; or the water from the ponds is used in the summer - so the creek that used to be dry in the summer now has a trickle.

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Does anyone know more details about exactly what Sepp is doing to make these lakes? 



I know quite a bit.

the answer is huge and depends on each project.

HappyHouse wrote:
Sepp is coming to Montana to build a pond, I believe.
    I have been wondering about this one.It is located on private lands which are located with in the Indian reservation.The people of the reservation have worked very hard on their water rights treaties.Water standards with in the reservation are much above the states requirements.One must go through the permitting process.The tribes are very protective of their wetlands,streams  and creeks as well as Flathead lake.



I heard from the gal with the land and she has already put in a ton of legwork on making sure everything is done correctly with all of the proper permissions.  And I know that when I was looking at the land making recommendations, there were two tribe members there.  My impression is that a lot of the planning is being done with the tribe.



 
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A 17 min podcast of Paul doing Q & A with a group after watching Sepp's "Aquaculture." They talk about making lakes: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/?s=sepp+holzer+film+discussion+2
 
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Emerson White wrote:
Listening to the podcast right now, I've seen paul talk about Sepp greening the desert a few times, and I feel like a super crucial piece of information has been left out. If Sepp is damming seasonal streams that really changes the picture. A desert that only gets 3" of rain a year is a difficult prospect, but if you are damming streams then the catchment above your dam is a crucial piece of information. If you have a catchment that's 4 times as big as your plot then suddenly you are working with 15" worth of rain per year.

Edited: to make title less appealing.



According to Paul on the permies podcast the location of this desert is in Portugal (SW Europe). I live in Portugal in one of the dryest/hottest parts, and right now its extremely dry with the majority of the landscape looking pretty brown. Despite that, according to our own records, and by official records, we get around 600mm or more of rain a year. 3 inches is only 75 mm !!! I asked Paul if he would tell me where Sepp's place is, but he said I would have to post on the forum to find out !!!

Burra maluca (another Portugal resident) has already posted on this thread, and I am sure could confirm what I have said.

If your reading this Burra , I hope the light sussex have settled in ok.
 
Burra Maluca
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Welcome Blaptica!  Great to have you here!

Yes, I was confused about the 3" of rain too.  I think there is a bit of confusion about what constitutes Iberia/Spain/Portugal and there might be a couple of different projects getting mixed up, so I'll attempt to de-confuse the bits I'm sure of, and hope someone will fill in the other bits.

Iberia, or the Iberian Peninsula, is the whole of Spain *and* Portugal.



Portugal is the bit of Iberia on the West coast, gazing out across the 'pond' of the Atlantic ocean to the USA. 

Spain is basically the rest of Iberia.

In the Maddy Harland podcast, she was obviously confused and referred to Tamera as being in 'that part of Portugal known as the Iberian peninsula'.  Tamera is definitely in Portugal, and I'm certain has far more than 3" of rain a year.

But the Tamera team have also been involved with a project in the Exremadura (which I think translates as 'Extremely-Hard' area of Spain, which might be a source of the confusion.  Just to the west of the Extremadura is my (and Blaptica's - he's a friend of mine) bit of Portugal.

Here's a link to a booklet produced by Tamera - page 21 onwards has a section about the Extremadura project. 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/59076807/Tamera-booklet-Ecology-for-Peace-Research-Villages

It talks of 'winter rain', so if this is the project referred to then maybe the 3" of rain meant summer rain?  If anyone knows anything more about the origin of the 3" I'd love to know.

Tamera are doing a load of seminars and stuff in August, focusing on sepp holzer and water and it's kind of calling me to go so I can ask them all these things.  I feel like Tantalus in that cave - it seems so close and I just can't go...   


 
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I've copied and pasted the details of the project in the Extremadura, Spain.  If anyone can confirm whether or not this was the project that inspired the 3" quote, I'd appreciate it. 

A Finca in the Extremadura: An Example of the Use of Holzer‘s Permaculture in Spain

"The successful reshaping of a semi-arid landscape into a water paradise with a lush plant biotope: South of Madrid, in the middle of the Spanish Extremadura region, which is acutely threatened by desertification, a successful example of the revitalization of a biotope can be found. Based on Holzer‘s Permaculture concept, the 270 ha [675 acre] finca is a pioneer model for a green future on the Iberian Peninsula.

Long periods of drought and massive soil erosion caused by strong winter rainfalls led to the desertification of the landscape. This was the initial situation when an analysis was made and a concept developed for a sustainable renaturation of the property. One of the focuses of the cause analysis was concerned with the dramatic increase in dying holly oak trees during the past few years throughout all of Spain. The scientific explanation of a virus infection was subject to examination.

The situation of the holly oaks in Extremadura is very similar to that of the cork oaks in the Alentejo. When looking at the question of why the holly oak was dying, sepp holzer arrived at a surprisingly simple and logical answer. In his opinion, the agrarian economical development during the last 50 years has led to an extremely high overall strain on the oak population, a large part of which is hundreds of years old. He pointed out the coarse way the trees are cut leaving a large “wound” behind. This leads to the familiar damages the trees suffer from disruption to the tree‘s capillary system in contact with air, fungi infestation of the weakened tree and colonization with wood beetles whose larvae create burrows and decay inside of the tree.Finally, the tree dies.

This process is favored by the extreme environmental conditions. Originally the Mediterranean hard leaf tree, the oak tree, is used to long periods of dryness. However, through the past decades of overgrazing the soil has become extremely dense, despite strong rainfalls in winter. The water hardly penetrates the soil, instead, it runs off the surface. Additionally the grazing animals decimate the plant diversity and prevent the growth of a young forest. Therefore the layer of humus lacks the stability that derives from the roots, and exposed to wind and rain is subject to strong soil erosion. This cycle creates a general stress situation for the veteran oaks and weakens their power of regeneration.

To sepp holzer, this chain of influences shows that the theory of a virus infection is an old wives‘ tale. He shakes his head over the suggested inoculation of the trees and over the prevailing blindness towards the writing in “nature‘s book“. For the regeneration of the entire area of this “tree graveyard“, he thus suggested a radical change in the utilization concept. An important step was the discontinuation of pasture grazing to revitalize the ground and initiate the development of new forestation.

Supporting measures were added, such as the systematic plowing of the compacted soil in order to provide good soil for the tree seeds to germinate in; followed by reforestation of a mixed cultivation of fruit trees and supporting plants, like salads, legumes and root vegetables, this supported the improvement of the soil climate, and accelerated the creation of a natural layer of humus.

When visiting the place again after a planting period of one year where Holzer‘s ideas were applied, we were already able to walk through large parts of a fertile edible landscape set in the midst of the frugal Extremadura region. Under the trees in the middle of a meadow radishes and salads were growing. They thrived splendidly and were delicious to eat during our long walks across the property. Even more impressive was the change in the landscape due to the many lakes that had been built during the past two years. Filled by the winter rains, they gently fit into landscape like a row of pearls. The abundance of water fowl and the glittering of the lakes and ponds which are up to 10 hectares [25 acres] each, enchant the visitors. For a while one forgets that one is in an area of Europe that is threatened by rapid desertification.

”Water is life” - This core statement by sepp holzer can be experienced in this young permaculture project in a breathtakingly impressive way. After only one rainy season, eight lakes were brimful with precious water. Now the body of the earth has time to absorb the water over a long period of time. The micro-climate is permanently vitalized and a rich diversity of species of plants and animals has gained a living space in surroundings that until now were inhospitable.

Already today, a feeling of “paradise” can be sensed, and it does not require much imagination, even by ecological laymen, to see the positive opportunities for future developments. The visible reality speaks clear words. Altogether, sepp holzer introduced 50 hectares [125 acres] of lakes and ponds into the overall design of the property. These constitute the foundation for the ecological revitalization and healing of the biotope during the coming years.

The project can expand the mental horizon of every visitor to embrace the certainty that there are solutions to problems which until now seemed unsolvable. The finca is an impressive signal for the Iberian Peninsula and an important answer to the question of what is possible for the future of this
region: catching water as the most precious substance, instead of letting if drain away. A rich biotope of mixed cultivation will change the characteristic landscape of the Iberian Peninsula. It will transform a zone almost declared a desert into a garden of Eden.

In the name of all of life and in the name of future generations we are deeply thankful to sepp holzer
for his farsighted visionary power and his steadfast drive to bring about change."
 
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I'd love to know what kind of plough he used to decompact the soil - maybe the folks at lineaclave.org lent him their Yeomans ?


He's actually taken a leaf out of P.A. Yeomans' preachings since the 1940s:

Plough the soil - using the right implement - to allow rainwater to soak evenly into the ground, fence off areas where you want trees/tree belts to regenerate,
and store water in dams at the highest point in the landscape, preferably in a series of connected dams going downhill/-stream.

The annual rainfall is definitely higher than 75mm, it's just that this landscape is as manmade as the desert - you can't wait for it to hold water,
because it'll just keep on eroding during regular flash flood events.

The advantage of course being that here you can grow sturgeon, while in the desert all you can do is store water underground.
 
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I hope that map wasn't for me Burra, but for our American friends ! Well maybe Sepp was talking about Extremadura, and that may be drier than here where we are. But still I would guess it would recieve alot more than 3 inches per year.

So Like Burra I would be interested to know exactly where Sepp was talking about, where this idea come from, or whether it is just a chinese whisper situation.

Paul, you told me you knew where Sepp was talking about so please let us know !!!
 
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Blaptica wrote:
I hope that map wasn't for me Burra, but for our American friends !



It was for *all* our non-Iberian friends.  I'm well aware that your knowledge of Iberia is a whole load greater than mine, Blaptica!  Even that map wasn't perfect - it was labeled Map-of-Spain 

I've just been listening to the Maddy Harland podcast again. 

Here's the link http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/166-podcast-016-maddy-harland-of-permaculture-magazine/

She starts off talking about Tamera, which is just south of Lisbon I believe, and then they go on to talk about a place in Spain where Sepp has built lakes.  I'm pretty certain that this is the place that I posted about yesterday and is the one that Paul believes has 3" of rain a year, unless Sepp has done anything else in Spain that I'm not aware of.  It seems to be somewhere south of Madrid. 

This page http://www.kyero.com/weather/28-madrid-weather has some weather stats for Madrid, including rainfall.

Jan - 62
Feb - 42
Mar- 70
Apr- 35
May- 35
Jun - 4
Jul - 1
Aug - 3
Sep - 32
Oct - 94
Nov - 71
Dec - 56

Which I think totals 505 mm or just under 20" per year.

During June, July and August however, there is only 8 mm, which is about a third of an inch.  Even if you include May and September, it still only totals around 3".  Which I think is where the confusion has set in.  I strongly suspect that someone has talked about 3" of rainfall between May and September, and somewhere along the line it's got muddled up into 3" annual rainfall. 

I can well imagine that if anyone sees this part of the world during the summer, it would be very easy to believe it's bone dry the whole year round.  It's only those of us who live here that understand how wet it can be at other times...

Now, how to break the news to Paul - hope he's not gonna be cross with me...
 
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There are two different projects.

1) The Tamera project in portugal which Maddy told me about in that podcast.

2)  A project in a desert in Spain which Sepp told me about. 

I don't know the exact location of the spain project. I know that it was something like 20,000 acres and Sepp was given access to do his thing on something like 500 acres while other experts were given other chunks.  I know that the land was owned by some princess.  I was told that land received three inches of rain a year.  And based on the pictures, my impression was that that was probably accurate.
 
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Thanks for that Paul.  I'm still not certain if he's done more than one project in Spain though as my German is pretty well non-existent

I've emailed Sepp to ask if he can clarify, but I'm not sure if he'll reply - I suspect he's just as busy as you are. 

The Extremadura project was 675 acres, so it sounds like it could be the one.  It's possible that what you were told is inaccurate.  The lowest rainfall I know of in Spain is 125-150mm per year, which is 5-6", according to this link.  http://www.iberianature.com/material/Spain_climate/Rainfall_Spain.htm   The problem is that it all arrives in huge doses, in a few days, and all it does is wash away topsoil, which is why catching it in lakes is such a fantastic solution. 

And living in a place with a similar climate, I can see why anyone would believe it never rained at all if all they saw was what it looks like in August. 

 
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Burra Maluca wrote:
The problem is that it all arrives in huge doses, in a few days, and all it does is wash away topsoil, which is why catching it in lakes is such a fantastic solution.



Living in a climate with extremes of drought and flood, where ponds go dry in drought years, I'd be concerned about losing a lot of water to evaporation from lakes, and wonder if infiltration basins and swales a la Brad Lancaster might be more appropriate.  Sepp is used to a climate with extremely low evaporation. 
 
Mark Harris
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paul wheaton wrote:
There are two different projects.

1) The Tamera project in portugal which Maddy told me about in that podcast.

2)  A project in a desert in Spain which Sepp told me about. 

I don't know the exact location of the spain project. I know that it was something like 20,000 acres and Sepp was given access to do his thing on something like 500 acres while other experts were given other chunks.  I know that the land was owned by some princess.  I was told that land received three inches of rain a year.  And based on the pictures, my impression was that that was probably accurate.



Thanks for that Paul. Burra and I both own land in central Portugal which is much closer to Spain than the Portuguese western coast. The climate is very similar to the Alentejo (Tamera) and Extramadura. The Alentejo is south of us, and Extramedura to the the east.
Looking at pictures on that link, I cannot believe 3" of rain is found per annum at either location. If you saw pics of our place in the middle of summer you might think we only got 3" of rain per year !

 
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Ok I have an exact location for Tamera now ! Its west of Beja (closer to the the coast than Beja). The further east you travel the drier and more extreme the climate. It should be slightly  wetter than Beja which gets an average of 590mm of rain per year. A big difference from the 75mm (3 inch ) mentioned in that podcast. No wonder maddy was amazed by how green the place was.

Also she says in the podcast that she visited the place in Febuary. It would have looked very lush and green then ! A very different sight in mid summer.

To put things into perspective, I looked at rainfall in the Uk. Average rainfall for East Anglia (east of England) between 1971-2000 was 606mm, very close to Beja figures !

Tamera DOES NOT have a desert cliamte despite what has been said before.
 
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