Whatever you do, either regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and/or agroecology, it all starts with a healthy water management. Water management in our case means water retention (keeping the water from the (winter) rains on the land as long and at a as high altitude as possible).
LOOKING AT THE NATURAL WATER CYCLE OF THE AREA.
Before starting the water management it is important to understand the natural water cycle of the land. If you understand how the natural water cycle should be working on your land, you can make the necessary changes through water retention systems to restore this water cycle.
It are the changing rain patterns that dictate for a better water management. The yearly averages of rainfall might be the same in most regions, but the patterns of rainfall have changed. It rains less frequently, but with higher quantities creating more flooding, erosion through water run offs and on the other hand droughts (bush/forest fires) periods within the same area.
WHAT KIND OF TECHNIQUES CAN BE USED TO ESTABLISH WATER RETENTION? One way is to use earthwork systems and afterwards creating a sponge layer by increasing organic matter and organic diversity.
Earth works like Swales, Keyline design, Terraces, Dams, Hugelkultur (for more rainy climates)
Organic matter sponge layer is achieved through Holistic Animal Management (planned grazing), Mulch, Food forest, mixed grasses and herbs pastures
SWALES are basically ditches with horizontal bottom that collect water. They are usually dug out in contours/on level of a particular landscape for the purpose of holding water and increasing the water tables. This helps hydrate the soil. Swales prevent water from just running down the hill, often dragging soil with it, and provides a more effective design for farming on inclined surfaces.
Swales are ideal in climates with summer rains or monsoons, as the vegetation will use the summer rains straight away. In climates with summer droughts and winter rains swales are less effective, as in these area’s you prefer to store the rainwater at deeper levels, raising the water table in the higher area’s and having a spring appear in lower levels.
Mini swales are an option to be used in climates with summer droughts and are more cost effective.
A DAM is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Generally dams serve the primary purpose of retaining water, but they have the potential to perform many functions in a landscape beyond simple water storage. First things coming to mind being aquaculture, moderating climate and acting as a barrier to fire.
Water storages should begin as high up in the landscape as possible, allowing greater use downslope via passive gravity-fed irrigation as well as overflow to lower dams.
Good dam sites for harvesting surface water flows on small farms occur in natural storm-water drainage lines and gullies, ideally at the Keypoint of the slope. If not placed in a natural gully, Graded banks can be built to funnel surface water into these types of dam.
Potential soak filled dams may also be found where there is natural soil seepage, often marked by the growth of water reeds and rushes on a slope.