Monday, May 11, 2009

Water is probably the most critical resource for successful farming. Lack of water is certainly bad in the short run, but improper use of water also has ill effects like increasing the salt content of the soil, making it unfarmable.

We have seen before that harvesting and managing water intelligently is one of the goals of Permaculture design. The two volumes of Brad Lancaster's Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond are the most authoritative books on water harvesting that I have come across.

Volume 1

Volume 2
Lancaster has traveled the world in search of rainwater harvesting techniques, and refined the methods he found in the parched regions of Africa, India and elsewhere to create almost an encyclopedia of water harvesting and utilization methods. These are presented in a manner that's useful for the city dweller and the farmer alike.

The books are written in a very accessible language and have plenty of illustrations that show how each method works. In addition, the formulas for each method are also included, with examples, so that you can calculate the amount of water you can get. The books also contain plenty of practical tips and tricks that Lancaster has accumulated through his own experience as well as from others. Volume 1 contains an overview of the methods of water harvesting - small earthworks and water storage in cisterns etc, while volume 2 goes into deeper detail about earthworks.

Two of the most important points I learned from the books:
  1. The soil is our best water reservoir.
  2. What's important is not how much rain falls in an area, but how much stops in that area, and how it is used.



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