lntroduction to Water in Permaculture

Permaculture Designers Manual



Section 7.1 –

lntroduction to Water in Permaculture

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Water is the driving force of all nature.

(Leonardo da Vinci)


In an animal or a plant, 99 molecules in 100 are

water… An organism is a pool in a stream of

water along which metabolites and energy

move through ecosystems.

(W.V. Macfarlane)


Very little of the world’s total water reserves are actually available for present human needs.

Many areas of earth, particularly dryland areas, over-developed cities and towns or cities surrounded by polluting industry and agriculture, face an absolute shortage of useable water.

Millions of city-dwellers now purchase water, at prices (from 1984 on) equivalent to or greater than that of refined petroleum.

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This is why the value of land must, in future, be assessed on its yield of potable water.

Those property owners with a constant source of pure water already have an economically-valuable “product” from their land, and need look no further for a source of income.

Water as a commodity is already being transported by sea on a global scale.

The PRIMARY SELECTION FACTOR, when choosing a cropland property to develop, should be an adequate, preferably well-distributed and above all reliable rainfall.

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Adequate” here is about a minimum of 80 cm (31 inches) and upwards.

An equally important factor is the ability of the area to hold water as dams in clay or clay-loam storages; any stream now within the boundaries is a bonus.

All other factors (soil type, present uses, and number of titles, market potential, access and forested areas) are secondary to water availability.

Little of the lands now used for crop agriculture have such fortunate characteristics. Few farmers have invested in “drought-proofing” their land by creating gravity led irrigation systems of Keyline systems.

Specific strategies of water conservation and control are given in this course under their appropriate climatic and landform sections.

While there are no economically-feasible strategies or technologies for freshwater creation from the sea or from polluted sources, there are several currently neglected strategies for recycling, purification, conservation and increased storages of rainwater.

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In particular, the construction of tanks and dams has been neglected inbuilt-up areas, as have earth storages on farms and in rural areas.

Waste usage, ranging from; over-irrigation, non-recycling in industry, inappropriate domestic appliances and unnecessary uses (on lawns and car washes) have not as yet been adequately cost evaluated by legislators or by householders.

Table 7.1 and Table 7.2 show abstract figures of the global and local water cycles. These should not be regarded as fixed or even sufficient representations of water in relation to actively designed or rehabilitated landscapes.

There are ways, in which we can constructively reverse past trends in water deficits, waste, pollution, and misuse.

There is plenty of water for the world if we define the ways in which we store and use it carefully.”

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