Monday, March 17, 2014

Water Catchment at Destiny

'But Destiny is so wet!! Why would we want to catch more water at Destiny?'

Water is our lifeblood & the lifeblood of the land. It's the lubricant that allows the life forces of the place to flourish & move. It's presence is cooling, refreshing, productive, & restorative. Usually, when water is felt to be 'too much' on a landscape it is during excessive rain, or when said water moves quickly & erosively through a landscape. Conceptually, we want water to flow through & across our land as slowly as possible -- & allow it to serve the greatest number of purposes possible, before it (inevitably) leaves our sloping landscape.

This is a video put together by Whole Systems Design farm in Northern Vermont's Mad River Valley. It describes briefly basic water catchment technology, & how the design of their land effectively absorbed the waters of Hurricane Irene -- which otherwise raged through the Mad River Valley.

Water does work upon the land. Besides watering plants & people, it…
- cleans tools & vegetables;
- can reduce or eliminate our need to water the gardens with pumps or by hand;
- creates habitat for a greater number of organisms, increasing the diversity & resilience of an ecosystem;
- allows for the production of distinctly aquatic food crops, both animal & vegetable;
- it increases dynamic & productive edge conditions while increasing raises the reflected heat of the land (creating micro-climates that can grow plants normally accustomed to warmer climates). Famously, Sepp Holzer has used this effect to successfully grow lemons & other citrus -- in the Austrian Alps.

(productive ponds at Sepp Holzer's Kramerterhof)

There exists a diversity of water-storing solutions that include:
- the soil itself
- swales
- trees & plants themselves
- ponds
- cisterns

The most efficient place/way to hold water is in the ground -- & the better the soil (the more organic material, the more spongy) the more water it can hold. In order though for the water to penetrate into the soil, we have to slow it down, to offer that exchange the time necessary for the water to sink. Swales (ditches dug on contour) are one such way to sink water deeply into the earth. This enables the plants & trees growing below to drink deeply & hold water in their flesh. Ponds are ways to hold standing water & aquatic ecosystems -- & often are capable of supplying gravity-feed irrigation systems in case of drought. Cisterns serve a similar function; they easefully capture rainwater off the roofs of buildings, & generally supply gravity-fed irrigation systems below.

Moving water opposite gravity requires a lot of power. The more water-drawing options (& increased water use efficiency) available to any community, the less reliant we are upon electricity or fuel or any one piece of equipment like a pump. This is one working definition for growing a more resilient community.


'So how much water are we talking about?'

Destiny, & Vermont as a whole, is a rainy place. About 3 to 5 inches of water fall each month, for a total of about 44 inches of precipitation a year. The formula to determine is :: rain fall harvest = catchment area x amount of rain x efficiency.

For example, if we collected water off the roof of our proposed new workshop structure (w/ approximately a 40' x 20' roof -- & with only 80% efficiency), the land's monthly average of 4 inches of rain would yield 1,600 gallons of water per month into cisterns. The kitchen meanwhile could collect more than that. The two side by side would mean over 3,000 gallons of water monthly available to the lower meadow -- the area to which these systems could gravity-feed. This, incidentally, points to moving our more water-intensive (vegetable) gardens to below the kitchen, in the lower meadow (where there is also more available sunlight).

These meanwhile are just two structures. This says nothing about the 160 acres Destiny holds in common -- that the same 44 inches of rain falls upon yearly. This means, according to the same equation, that a dizzying 191,166,936 gallons of fresh, clean water falls annually on our land. In the face of such quantity, we start where we can, catching water where it makes sense to do so, & grow our collective practice of doing so into the future.

Siting is key. What water needs do we have? & what opportunities lay above said needs to catch water?

Some existing & possible catchment points for us at Destiny in the nearer term:
- swales in the existing garden
- kitchen roof (cistern)
- dining hall roof (cistern)
- workshop roof (cistern)
- resident cabins (cisterns)
- pond at the bottom of the lower meadow
- terraces or swales for the proposed orchard in the lower meadow
- growing out lush gardens to hold water in the plants themselves
- continued soil building to grow the sponginess & water holding capacity of the earth


From the seat, & mouth, of the great Pashananda, we hear words of wisdom, 'Gently holding water'. <3 .


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