Often, water is the first aspect of a system Permaculture Artisans considers in its designs. All elements of a site are dictated by their relationship to water. Our designs apply an ecological approach to managing water runoff.
Conventional drainage practices usually drain water off of a site as fast as possible. This may be from the misconception that the water will create flooding or erosion problems. In fact, the opposite is true in many cases.
Water that is drained in pipes, culverts, and other impervious materials accumulates and increases in velocity. When water is drained off a property too fast it can create erosion, release sediment into streams and rivers, and compound floodwaters.
An approach to drainage and water runoff that seeks to slow, spread, and sink the water into the landscape will provide a multitude of beneficial effects to the site as well as throughout the entire watershed. Water-harvesting systems recharge groundwater aquifers and create mini on-site aquifers, or “water lenses,” keeping water in the landscape far into the dry season. They also mitigate water flowing rapidly across the surface of the land, preventing sediment and accumulated toxins from deteriorating downstream waterways and fish spawning habitats.
Water-harvesting uses a variety of techniques, including terraces, seasonal pools and ponds, water infiltration swales, slow moving waterways, and dry creeks.
Every site has its own specific variables for which observation is required in order to develop appropriate water harvesting techniques. Once the strategy is developed, the process continues with shaping or opening up the soil to encourage water to move slowly across it. Water spreads along these contours or into pools where it sinks into the earth.
Water-harvesting elements in a Permaculture Artisans design always add an aesthetic value to the landscape. They are integrated completely with the overall design and existing elements. These terra-forming techniques also add to the building and retention of topsoil and often become the basis for planting beds, the layout of trees, and other agricultural systems.
There are some situations where water infiltration is NOT the wise choice: near the foundation of a building, on extremely steep slopes (beyond 18% grade), and on slopes that have shallow soils resting on top of bedrock. While infiltration is not appropriate in these cases, erosion can occur if water is not slowed and drained properly. Permaculture Artisans is available for consultation on any of these surface water issues.