The world faces crises of both water quality and quantity. While water quality is almost continually in decline, water quantity both rises and falls – meaning an increase in both severe droughts and major rain events. Extreme rain events are increasing worldwide and we’ve had two here in the last three years, causing flooding and land slips – both of which are made worse by common land use practices in this region.
This older slip is on a neighbouring farm, leaving this fence suspended in mid-air.
The big picture approach to permaculture on our farm is to drought-proof and flood-proof the land simultaneously, while also improving water quality for everyone downstream of us. High on the property we’ve done heaps of water management, including building swales and ponds, and on the steep slopes planted over 100 poplar poles.
On the valley floor we have fenced the stream to exclude stock and planted the riparian corridor with over 1,700 native plants.
Setting fence posts, August 2016.
Planting Coprosma robusta, 2017.
The photos below are before/after shots showing change over the last 16 months.
But despite all of this work, our creek flooded six times this winter compared with once most winters. From what I can tell, this is down to two factors: the first is an extraordinarily wet winter and the second is recent logging of the slopes immediately upstream. Where pines once absorbed rains and held the slopes now water runs off quickly and fills the creek bed. It almost feels like all the work we have done has been undone by someone else 400 metres up the stream.
What this also means is that in dry spells the stream will be even lower because the water from winter rains has not been stored in the earth to be released slowly in the spring and summer. Clear-felling slopes is a lose-lose situation for everyone downstream.
Permaculture is about big picture thinking, holistic problem-solving, connecting the dots and four-dimensional design. When designing, we need to look beyond our own properties for factors that may have significant impacts. As the saying goes, “We all live downstream.”
One thought on “Big Picture Permaculture: A Watershed Perspective.”
I am new to permaculture, however, I keep hearing the reoccurring theme of “the problem is the solution”. I assume there would be too much water to catch in dams or water tanks and you can only do so many swales. Would it be possible to work with nature by putting in some boulders and letting the stream widen or even turn into more of a braided stream network? if the stream was braided you could collect vital nutrients for the summer growing season. I’m just throwing ideas out there and it seems that you may have a valuable resource. I like what you have done to mitigate the landslips on your land. Have a great day. Lee.