The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1502: Water Harvesting with Brad Lancaster

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    My guest for this episode is Brad Lancaster author of the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series, of which the first book is now available in a revised and updated second edition.

    In this episode Brad and I discuss the value of infiltrating water into the soil so that it becomes a resource that we invest during water rich times and withdraw from that bank only when needed during dry times. As Brad’s work includes more than just drylands the conversation also includes ideas for storing water in rich areas. Along the way we also look at several listener questions including fog harvesting, using living systems to hand wet basements, and observing to find the right match for plants suitable to wet clay soils.

    What I really enjoyed about this conversation was Brad’s continued reference to creating and using living systems. This was something reinforced to me during my permaculture education by a teacher training instructor Rico Zook. Rico said that we have to design ourselves out of the system. Whether we are working our backyard or in international aid we are only there for a limited amount of time with a restricted pool of resources. The ideal is that our designs will be integrated to the point that they are resilient and functional when we are no longer available to directly oversee them. I also think of the importance, especially in designing for disasters, or systems that can survive if they are damaged by a storm, negligence, or ill-intent. The principles and ethics of permaculture provide an excellent foundation for that, and Brad’s work adds to the strategies available for harvesting water.

    If after listening to this episode you would like to hear another perspective on water harvesting I recommend checking out my earlier interview with Craig Sponholtz of Watershed Artisans. That conversation compliments what Brad said here and reminds me that life is the way to slow down the forces of entropy and recycle resources in the landscape and in our lives.

    Other resource of interest:
    Brad’s blog post on Fog Harvesting
    David Eisenberg and the Development Center for Appropriate Technology
    Zephaniah Phiri Maseko’s biography at National Geographic

    I know I’ve referred to it before, but when thinking about water I come back to the saying from the disaster preparedness community. We can survive three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Water is vital to our health, well-being, and ability to grow food. If we are to build a regenerative civilization using life sustaining systems we need to insure the availability of clean water wherever we wish to live. We need to harvest water. We need to save water when we have a surplus so we can use it when there is a deficit. That is the way that we can borrow from ourselves rather than go into debt to future generations.

    Wherever you are on your permaculture journey, I am here to help you. Get in touch.

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    Until the next time, create a better world each day by taking care of earth, your self, and each other.


    1 Ping/Trackback

    1. Ingrid and Nathan DedmoreIngrid and Nathan Dedmore
      March 1, 2015    

      Thank you for sharing Brad. We really enjoyed this podcast. We loved your comment about us giving our nutrients back to the earth one day. So true, if only more people were in awarness about this fact.

      We would LOVE your mesquite brownie recipie if you have the oppritunity to share it 🙂

      Dedmores in Phoenix

    2. RLM McWilliamsRLM McWilliams
      March 4, 2015    

      Another book for my ‘must read’ list. In addition to plants that are adapted to even hotter and drier climates in the Southwest, it seems to me that helping that landscape to recover and helping it to regenerate is also a worthwhile approach. Swales, keyline, Holistic Managment planned grazing – these are just a few tools that have been used to help restore the water cycle, renewing water tables, springs, and streams in very ‘brittle’ dry lands. And even rain. (Yes, people, trees pump water up to their leaves where respiration takes place releasing water vapor into the atmosphere, creating clouds that shed rain IF enough trees are involved.)
      As climates and weather everywhere become less predictable, planting species suited to both slightly hotter AND colder, wetter AND drier situations seems a good tactic, eh?
      Geoff Lawton is another great resouce for those dealing with drylands, particularly larger acreages. Alan Savory of Holistic Management Int’l and the Savory Institute, has helped reverse desertification on every continent except Antarctica. Though focused on large acreages, his Holistic Management approach is applicable to every human endeavor.
      Good to hear mesquite being appreciated! Though native, it is too often considered a ‘weed’. People don’t realize it is a resource. (Then again I knew a couple who struggled finacially who threw away several antique Oriental carpets inherited from her father’s family, the sale of which could have probably gotten them out of debt. They just thought of them as ‘those dirty old rugs’. The short-sightedness of our species is not limited to plants or the eco-system!)

    3. […] also like to thank author, educator, and guest of the podcast, Brad Lancaster, for his many years of support and continuing contributions to the […]

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