“A swale is a water harvesting trench, dug usually on a contour line.” That’s the technical definition- it tells you as much as a definition of the horse as a four legged animal does about that splendid beast. Between the time I read of swales in Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Designer’s Manual in 2006 and actually decided to embrace them as the central feature of pointReturn, it was a good three years. It was even a whole year after I did the Permaculture Design
That I had fallen in love with the word ‘swale’ helped. It kept buzzing at the back of my mind like some tempting movie I must see someday. ‘Swale’ is a decidedly lovelier sounding word than Continuous Contour Trench- or its abominable abbreviation, CCT, the usual tag for a swale in India.
How I eventually came to love swales, is a story worth telling in some detail. Long time visitors to this site know most of what I will quickly summarise in next few paras. I had gone out of the way to seek a land that was abandoned, bereft of top soil, water and any agricultural activity. [story]. I wanted a blank canvas on which to demonstrate restoration from levelZero. My goal was to make 18 acres self-sufficient in water, food, energy and cash for forty people.
In 2007, I installed a windmill to pump water based on a logic that went as follows: ‘No doubt the groundwater is likely to be little, since the bald sloping land must have shed all rainwater -and topsoil- as runoff. There must have been very little groundwater recharge over the years. Still, being so close to a hill, there must be some water down there. Maybe it cannot sustain a multiple horsepower pump- but a windmill? A windmill sucks but under a litre per stroke or about 50litres per minute. Surely, there must be a sustained water supply down there to feed such a windpump’.