Falling in love with swales

“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

I have put together a slideshow on the swale work done at pointReturn. A link to the slideshow appears at the end of this article as it is best viewed after reading this.

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’.

7 thoughts on “Falling in love with swales

  1. Dear DV,

    Don’t know how it may help, but in watershed developments, CCTs need to be done on entire catchment area of watershed to get full effect. So, in your case, is it possible for you to do 1-2 swales on the west side outside of your property? The percolated water will benefit the borewell.

    – Kedar

  2. Dear DV, thanks for such a insight.. I have approached Ringo to check if he can visit my farm and help me in planning.. this is a great help and I badly needed this.

  3. Dear DV
    Wishing you and the team at point return a happy and pleasant new year. On reading, how can one not fall in love with swales? If Only a marginal farmer( if I may use that word)be educated in the virtues of swale, that would be more effective than policy makers groping around committees to implement. Thanx a lot for en lighting. chandrakant

  4. Dear DV,
    It is amazing how you get the strength to do such wonderful things. Obviously it is your love of nature that is making you do all these things. I wish you all the best for the New Year and may the swales give you all the joy that you wish for. Hats off boss

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