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Water Harvesting Earthworkds “Design to Reality”. Part 1.


So, you have been contacted by a client and you’ve discussed the client’s brief. You’ve started to look at the contour map, aerial images, whatever data you can find on the site. And with the client brief in mind, always remembering WATER IS LIFE, you set to the task of patterning the landscape using functional forms.

You start to look at what’s the most economical way to hold water in the landscape, move water around the landscape passively and make it perform as many duties as possible before it leaves the site.

Next is to develop the mainframe design theme. A big part of this is looking for high water storage sites. So we take the approach of looking at the contour map to take into account where the highest possible spot is, where water can safely be stored on the site in dams, (always considering how much catchment area is above the potential dam site or if there are any hard-surface run-off areas above the dam site).

Reader’s will understand catchment area, but hard surface run-off areas aren’t so well utilised and it’s just a bit of pattern recognition to identify when you look at a new site.

Identifying hard surface run off areas

Hard surface run-off areas with a bit of design thinking, can brought into our water harvesting systems. At times it doesrequire good observation skills to identify them, but there are generally clues for the observer.

There are many examples of hard surface run-off areas, sometimes called ‘hard-ware’. Your roof, a road, any compacted surface or a rock outcrop are all examples of ‘hard-ware’.

Gravel roads run off 85% of the water that hits the surface. Concrete areas 100% minus whatever evaporates, and your roof 100%.

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Water Saving Irrigation Practices


Saving water in the soil is without a doubt the easiest and most effective way to manage the water flowing through your land. If you need extra irrigation, however, the water stored up in your soil isn´t easy to access. For irrigation needs, you´ll want to use water that you store in cisterns or tanks. This water can be harvested either from the sky in the form of rain or through capturing water from a spring, river or another source of fresh water.

Irrigation, unfortunately, is one of the most wasteful practices in modern day agriculture. From traditional sprinkler systems to large-scale irrigation by airplane and helicopter, millions of gallons of water are lost each year by irrigating pieces of land where nothing is growing.
For a plant to grow properly, it obviously needs water. That water resource, especially when limited, should be focused on the root area. While sprinkler systems, to name just one example, indiscriminately spray water over entire fields of plants, drip irrigation systems can focus water directly to the root zone of the plant where water is needed.

Drip irrigation systems have been reported to use 80% less water than traditional irrigation practices. Furthermore, since these systems direct water only underneath the plant, fungal diseases caused by excess water accumulating on the leaves can also be avoided. We will briefly look at two easy to set up drip irrigation methods below.


If you have the money, you can purchase drip irrigation systems that include everything from primary lines to secondary lines to emitters. These complete sets are usually pretty reliable though costly, and if treated correctly will last for several years. If you want the easy approach to drip irrigation, you can search the web for any number of drip irrigation systems.

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Turn Your Sink and Shower Water Into An Abundant Oasis


Chances are that you have probably heard of the importance of conserving water. Dozens of governmental and non-governmental organizations have orchestrated campaigns trying to convince the average person to reduce the amount of water that they use. From high-efficiency laundry machines to shower heads that are in line with the current national energy policy act standard, most advocacy for conserving household water use focuses on having us use less water.

While reducing the amount of water we use is undoubtedly important, re-utilizing water is a strategy and approach that is very rarely considered. Greywater recycling constitutes a way to reuse the water that goes down our drains. When done correctly, it comprises no danger to human health while also leading to greater ecological resiliency.


Every day most people send hundreds of gallons of greywater into sewer and septic systems. Greywater, or the water from our sinks, showers, dishwasher and laundry machines, differs from black water (from toilets) and contains mostly soap residues. This water can easily be recycled into the landscape allowing for an extra water source and source of fertility. Even in the driest regions, greywater recycling can allow you to create an oasis from the water you normally waste.

In places like California and the desert southwest, we read headlines almost on a monthly basis of how severe drought is causing problems for households. People are advised to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawn, but virtually no attention is given to what to do with the water that does go down our drains. It is estimated that between 60% and 80% of residential waste water is wash water that comes from our dish washer, sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines.

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Groundwater Recharging

Groundwater Recharging

It’s a rainy Monsoon day.

Today, it’s water, water everywhere, but soon there will not be a drop to drink. Think forward to April & May. Dry times ahead. And for some, water problems could come as early as February & March.

Every monsoon, Goa receives around 3000mm of Monsoon rainwater.

That’s a lot. In fact, it’s plenty, and more. So why are we faced with dwindling water tables, empty wells, the “need” for damaging bore wells to compete with all the other wells, and the resulting mafioso-like sale and tanker transport of fresh water?

Water is one of the most important resources we have. It is the beginning of all life, and if poorly managed, can lead to drought or devastating floods, bringing life to an abrupt end.

Often the instant reflex to water falling on land is, “Quick! Get rid of it!”. Every effort is made to keep the property “dry”, to prevent water from entering the property from higher points, and ensure the speedy drainage off the property on lower points. You can see this applied in apartment blocks in urban settings where the spaces are entirely paved, in gated complexes, in single-family homes, gardens, and surprisingly, even across paddy fields and other agricultural lands. A glaring and painful example is the paddy field in front of our home, that had a long ditch carved into it a few years ago to carry so much of the water away.

But what happens next? Does the water just get rerouted to another place to cause havoc? Or does it continue racing down and out through nalas (storm-water drains) and other drains, across fields (many fallow), into bursting rivers and straight out to sea, where it’s of no use to people, land or animals?

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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