Tuesday, 25 February 2014


A recent trip to Arizona illustrated the need for us ALL to be thinking about water.  It was an educational experience to be in an arid climate (in total contrast from the cold climate where I currently live and the temperate coastal climate that I grew up in).  Regardless of the climate that we live in, we ALL need water and we ALL need to place water conservation and water capture at the top of our priority list.  

The Hoover Dam is a spectacular piece of engineering but I was extremely distracted by the low water level.  Although it's hard to tell in the pictures, if you look closely, you'll see the horizontal demarkation (where light and dark meet) on the far rock face.   That line marks where the water level SHOULD be.   Apparently, the water level has never been so low which has everybody quite concerned (and rightly so).  

 You can just make out the high water line on the actual dam wall.  Although it's hard to tell in the photo, the dam is MASSIVE, so we're talking about a MAJOR water shortage/drought.  

Everywhere I travelled through Arizona, I saw infrastructure (washes) designed to get rid of water as fast as possible.  When the rain comes to this arid climate, it comes fast and furious as torrential downpours (usually in August).  I can imagine there are huge challenges when the water does finally come - the force and erosive power behind the flow must be potentially catastrophic.  Because everything is so dry from a year without much/any rainfall, very little of the rain water is absorbed ~ it mostly washes away taking sand, soil and rock with it. 

In my (ongoing) study of permaculture, the need for capturing/slowing water as top priority taught me a great deal.  I have much to learn on this humbling topic but as a start, we are diligently working on finishing touches to the water plan for our own property.    Some methods involve active catchment with rain water stored in tanks, but the majority of the rain that falls on our land will be passively directed through earthworks (swales and mulch basins) and ultimately be stored in the soil and in ponds.  All of these methods should work together to slow the flow of water through the site, allowing it to sink in and nurture trees, plants, wildlife and soil critters (which in turn nurtures us).  It's a humble beginning, but it's a start.

Of great help to me are several resources:



  1. Our state actually used to (stupidly) sell water to Arizona, even though we always seem to be in a drought as well. One of Joel Salatin's books talks about how the western US (incredibly drought prone) funnels all its water away, and how ridiculous this concept is! It's so true. Until recently it was also illegal to capture rain water. Apparently the state can claim they own a product of mother nature (except don't expect them to take any responsibility for major flooding when it happens).

    It sounds like you have a great start, and this is something always on our minds as well, so it will be great seeing your progress!

    1. I'm quite eager to get rolling on the earthworks, however small.

      I had NO IDEA it was previously illegal to harvest rainwater - that's crazy!

  2. Wow we are currently in drought here in Australia too. It has reinforced the importance of water management on our property too. Would u be interested in guest posting on permaculture on my blog? I am running a series on personal experiences with permaculture. ... eight.acres.liz at gmail dot com

    1. Hi Liz :) Thanks for the invite (again!). I'm sorry I was away unexpectedly and didn't get a post to you before I left... Will try to do that very soon...

  3. That reminds me a little of what some of our dams looked like before our flood event a couple of years ago. While our three dams aren't as huge as the Hoover Dam they were down to 5% capacity. Our city of over 90,000 was in danger of running out of water so a pipeline was constructed to connect with a larger dam which supplies water to our capital city. Just as it was completed the rains came and within a couple of weeks the dams were completely full. I hope that happens over in the US too without too much damage caused by flooding.

  4. No drought here in the NE United States. We have been having too much water and now in the form of snow! Flooding will be our problem in the spring. Even the Great Lakes region has ice jams that will be flooding problem in spring. The Coast Guard has been kept busy with their ice breakers.