Managing Water Flow in Permaculture Design

In permaculture, one of the basic design principles is use and value renewable resources. One of the most vital natural resources we have is fresh water. Permaculture approaches to all facets of life must take into account the pathways of fresh water.

Those designing sustainable landscapes and food producing systems must think about how fresh water can be conserved and utilised effectively. One key concern is how land can be managed to maintain the integrity of the water cycle and channel water to where it is needed.

Permaculture practices such as planting trees, adding trace elements and organic matter through mulching and organic feeds, non-destructive agricultural practices of well-managed natural yields, sparse grazing and conservation farming can increase the ability of the soils to hold and infiltrate water by up to 70-85%. 

But managing water pathways on permaculture land often involves more than just planting trees and other vegetation, and managing and caring for the soil. Permaculture systems often incorporate earthworks, which can store, slow, or direct water throughout a site. 

Water can be stored by earthworks such as ponds, pools, dams and in-ground storage tanks.

Swales are another important element in permaculture design. Swales are used to slow the flow of water on a site and to collect and hold water on a given piece of land.

On more steeply sloping sites, terracing can be more effective than swale systems, or used in combination with them. Creating a series of terraces can slow water’s progress down a slope, as well as giving sloping land more potential for construction and food production.

Irrigation layouts, either channels, or sophisticated land-forming techniques such as those used for flood or sheet irrigation, also help catch and store water in the landscape.

In permaculture, one key goal is always to keep water around in the landscape, and direct it to where it is needed.

If you want help in managing water on your property, please do get in touch.

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