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Ardeche, FR

David Flores Gabor Kovacs Ignacio Artaza Sanya Omerovic Silvia Floresta Victor Barahona Yara Dowani

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Water management works

Project: Terrafirma

Posted by Ignacio Artaza over 10 years ago

Water is life! Summary of all the water related works done during 2013.

Lots of progress this past year!  Water management is essental for the sustainable development of Terrafirma, as rains tend to be limited to the fall-spring period and have been rather irregular / unpredictable over the past years.  Summers are hot and very dry, so that all new and young plantations require irrigation for survival and growth, until the root system is sufficiently developed to carry-on on their own.

A couple of years ago I dug a borehole which is the main water supply source, as the land is not connected to the public water network.  The land also borders a seasonal creek on its southern limit and had a small rain water pond.

This is how I proceeded:

1st:  observed the natural rainwater flow, catchment and wet areas;

2nd:  made a topographic map of the landcape to measure elevation points and identify and map out water features, namely, ponds, swales on contour, and diversion ditches;

3rd:  with the help of a digger in the village, I increased the size of the existing pond, excavated a large pond in the upper part of the land, dug swales and drainage ditches;

4th:  constructed a 27m3 water cistern at an elevated point near the house, which will be fed from the rooftop rainwater collection system (rainy season) and pumped water from the borehole (dry season);

Water system design

Presently, as I start with the plantations for the food forest, I am installing a gravity drip irrigation system to make irrigation simple and effortless.

The functions of the above features are as follows:


- Retain and store rainwater, gradually filtering it into the soil to increase humidity;

- Water barrier agains fire hazards;

- Habitat and magnet for wildlife and beneficial organisms, including for breeding fish;

- Microclimate moderation;

- Creation of additional edge surfaces for biodiversity and productivity;

- Production of biomass (mulch, composting material);

- Recreation and relaxation (e.g. fishing, bathing).


- Collect and recharge groundwater to create high-moisture micro-climates, gradually soaking the land;

- Prevention of erosion / reducing soil runoff and gully formation (in combination with trees/shrubs to be planted on swale mounds);

- Swale mounds serve as raised beds and nutrient-rich planting surfaces with adequate mulching;

- Creating rich, green landscapes in sloped areas;

- Additional edge effect areas for greater biodiversity;

- Diversion ditches prevent soil waterlogging by allowing accumulated water to leave the area in a controlled, non-erosive manner, instead of building up in the soil, channelling it to the ponds.

It will require a 3-5 years for the soil/clay to fill the pores and seal the ponds to slow filtration.  During 2014, based on what I have been observig thus far, I will make a few minor adjustments to the ponds' water outlet channels and dig a third, small pond in the lower part of the land.

Digging swales


Upper pond

Middle pond

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