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The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook (PDF)
How to Design and Build Swales, Dams, Ponds, and other Water Harvesting Systems
In the face of drought and desertification, well-designed water harvesting earthworks such as swales, ponds, and dams are the most effective way to channel water into productive use. The result can be increased food production, higher groundwater levels, reduced irrigation needs, and enhanced ecosystem resilience.
Yet due to a lack of knowledge, designers, and landowners often build earthworks that are costly, inappropriately sized and sited, or even dangerous.
The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook is the first dedicated, detailed guide to the proper design and construction of water harvesting earthworks. It covers the function, design, and construction methods for nine main types of water harvesting earthworks across a full range of climates.
- Swales, ponds, dams, hügelkultur, net-and-pan systems, spate irrigation, and more
- Cost versus benefit of different earthworks
- Assessing site needs and suitability
- Soil types and hydrology
- Designing for maximum efficiency and lowest cost
- Risk assessment and safe construction
- Stacking functions and integrating earthworks into a design
This practical handbook is the essential resource for permaculture designers, teachers and students, landowners, farmers, homesteaders, landscape architects, and others involved in maximizing the water harvesting potential of any landscape at the lowest cost and impact.
Douglas Barnes is a permaculture designer and trainer who specializes in rainwaterharvesting earthworks. Trained in Australia by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton, he has designed and built earthworks in North America, Japan, and Andra Pradesh, India. Douglas has an interest in complexity theory and systems ecology, educational design and rock climbing. He lives in Tweed, Ontario in a passive solar house he designed and built, and he blogs at permaculturerelections.com.
"Understanding the hydrological cycle is key to restoring damaged landscapes and ecosystems. Even relatively small areas can benefit from well-chosen earthworks to invigorate the growth cycle. It is however essential to understand your landscape, geology and its hydrology before building your earthworks of choice or you may do more damage than good. Douglas Barnes has written a very enjoyable book with accessible technical information for different climates to enable the reader to understand this big subject. The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook is required reading for students of permaculture design, regenerative agriculture and earth restoration."
Maddy Harland, Editor & Co-Founder, Permaculture Magazine – practical solutions beyond sustainability
"In The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook, Douglas Barnes has taken a complex subject and presented it in easy to understand language that anyone can follow. He leads you through the complete process of planning, design and execution for a variety of water harvesting systems including swales, ponds and dams. Permaculture strategies are applied throughout the process ensuring that you implement the best solution for your situation. A must-read for anyone undertaking an earthworks project."
Robert Pavlis, author, Building Natural Ponds and Garden Myths
"Creating earthworks to manage water resources is the crucial first step in permaculture land development. All other design work is built around the swales, drains, contour lines, pools and ponds that collect and direct rainfall. Drawing on deep experience, with detailed exploration of the cycles of rainfall, the flow of water on the land, soil types, landform, and the tools and techniques of earthworks, Douglas Barnes provides an essential guide doing it right the first time."
Darrell Frey, author, Bioshelter Market Garden: A Permaculture Farm and Co-author, Food Forest Handbook
"We came from water. We live on a water world. We are water. Climate change is weirding our weather but, overall, it will make more rain, not less. That is how the sky cleanses itself of carbon. How that rain falls, what it does when it hits ground, and whether it will be there when you need it all depend on many moving parts, but Douglas Barnes has given us the tool kit we have long needed to make the most of this. The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook transforms dilemma into opportunity. This needs to be a standard reference on the desk of every landscape designer, forester, agronomist and master planner."
Albert Bates, author, The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, The Biochar Solution, and The Paris Agreement
"In The Permaculture Earthworks Handbook, author Douglas Barnes uses clear, accessible language to explain everything from ponds, dams and swales to contour bunds, microcatchments, and hugelswales, from bench terracing and river training to pattern planting, spate irrigation and many other sophisticated techniques for harvesting water. And best of all, the book's strategies rest firmly on fundamental permaculture principles such as zone and sector planning, stacking, functional connectivity, efficiency and flow". This remarkably thorough and comprehensive book will be of great value to all who are seriously interested in shaping the ground to get the maximum value from the water that is available to them, while also taking excellent care of their land."
Sue Reed, Landscape Architect, author, Energy-Wise Landscape Design, co-author, Climate-Wise Landscaping
"Douglas Barnes offers an abundance of detail on harnessing the power of water for your homestead. After reading this book, you'll be ready to move some serious dirt."
Rebecca Martin, Managing Editor for Mother Earth News
"Water is the key element wherever we choose to live. Having travelled widely with indigenous people in both wet and dry climates I know how much care we need to spend on getting water if we are to break with the unsustainable option of plumbing into the grid. Douglas Barnes has written the key book on harvesting water for permaculture living. Clear, lively and extremely well written — it's destined to be a classic."
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