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DAY 7: Water Conservation and Storage (PDC 2010 with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton)

The world of water
The world of water by Snap®

Water Arithmetics

  • 97% of all water on Earth is salt water
  • of remaining 3%:
    • 14% is deep ground water (below 800ft) – this is fossil water that took thousands of years to travel from the surface. It cannot be renewed in our lifetime, and it can only be accessed using heavy-duty pumps. This is the water that modern monoculture farming is sucking up…
    • 11% is shallow ground water (less than 800ft deep)
    • 74% trapped in snow and ice caps
    • ONE PERCENT is lakes/ponds, forests, living systems, soils, rivers and atmosphere
  • There is a constant amount of water in the Earth system. Like energy, it doesn’t come from anywhere and it doesn’t go anywhere; it only changes its position and state. Hence, the water in my body right now could’ve in a dinosaur at some stage :).

Water Mantra

Water is the first thing we assess when designing a property. Generally, we want to catch and store as much water as possible (unless you are in the swamp, of course). Here is a little poem to guide the planning:

Longest path
Over the most distance
Over most time
Moving as slowly as possible
With the most passive friction
Rubbing up against as many things as possible
Is the most FERTILE

Same applies to love-making, haha.

Thoughts & Ideas on Water

We talk about peak oil. What about peak drinking water?

Water always moves at right angle (90 degrees) to contour. That’s why we put swales on contour.

Water structure is always different. If water has a lot of organic matter, it has higher viscosity, and thus will travel higher through capillary action. Trees utilise capillary action to pump the water up the trunk and branches. Soil hydrates upwards from water level also through capillary action.

If we have 10 liters of water and we use it once, we have 10 liters. If we use the same water 10 times we have 100 liters.

“I don’t understand how swales work,” inquired a student
“It’s real simple. Have you ever been whale watching? Well, cut it out and go swale watching!!” replied Geoff

Rapid Design with Accessible Tools

property design with Google Earth
property design with Google Earth

Above, Geoff is demonstrating a method for designing a property without use of fancy 3D software or high-tech land surveillance tools. In fact, design could even be done remotely, with someone on the property to validate observations. The technique is as follows:

  1. Locate the property on Google Maps
  2. Switch between Map, Satellite and Earth view to sketch out the contours, main hardware structures, predicted water movements, and other existing elements
  3. Position new design elements (according to client brief) over the land features
  4. Discuss with the client and make adjustments

In the image above, you can see the Google Maps projection and the design drawing laid over it.

Using this method of design we can create an approved design in one day. It’s very flexible, and errors are corrected quickly and efficiently. The designs sketches on the whiteboard can be photographed and used in the proposal document presented to the client.