Swales, Using Slope and Gravity to Collect Water

DEFINITION

Swales are water harvesting ditches on contour (Geoff Lawton). By etching these level ditches along your sloped property, you can naturally harvest many gallons of water that soak into your landscape rather than flow away. Swales slow down rain water giving it a chance to soak into the land rather than quickly carry away precious top soil or eroding the landscape.

SWALE PLUME

Check out this video narrated by Geoff Lawton, a master sustainability practitioner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wETVPEkHso

Swales are a great way to help restore compromised land areas giving newly planted trees bushes and plants a better chance of flourishing.

GRASS ROOTS FARM - HARVESTING WATER

An acquaintance of mine, Takota Coen, harvested a million gallons of water a few years ago using a some well placed swales on their 130 acre property. The swales caught the Spring runoff high up on the land and deep soaked it into the property. Excess was directed to a pond they dug below. Check out their Grass Roots Farm. The video featured here shows them building the swales.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPxJtKob7Js

PIPER CREEK RESTORATION PROJECT

The photos below show how we applied swale techniques on the Piper Creek Restoration Project in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Numerous groups have teamed up to restore and improve this property into a food forest, featuring native species of plants, bushes and trees that can strengthen the environment and at the same time benefit the people of Red Deer. All creatures win.

Because the area was so compromised, full of pioneer aggressive plants (weeds), we decided to swale the land and cover it with heavy plastic to solarize the foliage. This kills the strong hold the pioneer species have and allows us to introduce the species we prefer. It gives the new species a fighting chance to establish themselves.

The goal is a natural food forest that basically cares for itself. With swales and extra water harvested and delivered, the system will be more likely to thrive. Swales can be applied on city lots as well as acreages and large portions of land.

We were excited to complete this in the Spring of 2017 to commemorate Canada's 150th confederation birthday.

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