How to Keep What Rainfall Your Yard Gets
Rain. Some of us get more of it than others. In some cities it pours most of the year, while in others total annual rainfall is measured in a tuna can. You might not need to conserve as much water if you get a lot of rain. But even in high-precipitation areas of the country (and world), it’s more about infiltration than how much rain falls.
Infiltration is king when it comes to making the most use of rainfall. In areas where soil is exposed and compacted, water can’t make its way in. Instead, it sheets over the top of the soil. This means it ends up in the ill-conceived street drainage system. I say ill-conceived because the storm water engineering we’re all living with was designed to carry water away, not into, the landscape.
Parts of the L.A. River are being restored to a more natural state, as the Army Corps of Engineers realizes their mistake in paving all county waterways back when. It is a very exciting decision and a move in the right direction, towards sustainability, water quality, wildlife habitat, and heat island effect cooling.
If you’re careful while driving, you can catch wondrous glimpses of the sections they’ve already restored. Gorgeous stands of deciduous trees and riparian shrubs anchor gravel beds in sinuous shapes. Here’s hoping the project expands across all of L.A. County and serves as a precedent to other semi-arid municipalities as well.
Recently, I was inspired by a documentary about the friendship between ecologist and filmmaker John Liu and permaculturist Geoff Lawton. These two soulmates (also soulmates of mine!) combined thorough and eloquent coverage of the pervading lack of understanding when it comes to land use. They showed two demonstration projects outside the U.S. where the government stepped in to educate agrarian farmers. The result was astounding. I took the following screenshots and combined them for my Instagram feed.
The switch from conventional farming on slopes, where erosion and dessication of soil is maximized, to permaculture techniques transformed barren, desertified land into productive, green land again.
Infiltration of Rain Water to Recharge Aquifers
One of the reasons why the transformation was so comprehensive was that the change in land use practices allowed rainwater to reach the water table. The aquifers were recharged as well as the surface re-greened.
I share these same techniques with my clients and installation crews. They can be applied to almost any landscape in almost any climate. With all the talk recently about climate change (yay, we’re talking about it!), humankind needs to grasp that the solution is simple. The techniques I and my fellow permaculturists and ecologists use in developing landscapes are also relatively low-cost. I’ll write more on the economics of permaculture in future blog posts. In the meantime, I highly recommend you watch this great documentary. And I’d like to invite you to try one or two of the techniques.
We need to encourage and allow infiltration of rainwater into our soils. It’s simple and inexpensive to do. We just need to embrace the knowledge made available to us by permaculture.
For planning of your rural or residential property to allow infiltration of storm water, schedule a free strategy coaching session today!