Your Call Water Series – Feedback

waterfall into pond

Subject: Your Call Water Series - Feedback

This is in response to: “Your Call Water Series” [webcitation] radio program on KALW, 91.7 in San Francisco.

I’ve listened a few of your programs on water. There have been mentions about learning from other communities and countries. Most of the focus seems to be on “big solutions,” but water cycles happen at global, regional, and local levels. We need solutions that address the problems at all these different levels.

Of course, there is a need for large water projects, to move water to large cities. But the large projects will not solve the water problem if the “small water cycles” are not addressed. Those cycles need to be addressed at more local levels. For example, water-retention landscaping methods can revitalize areas where the water and land have been abused.

Ground water depletion is talked about as if groundwater is a limited resource. In some ways it is, but it’s not the sort of resource one can hoard. “Mainstream” water management attempts to limit reservoir evaporation and seepage into the ground as if those things were bad. That is backward. Water needs to evaporate, so it can return as rain. Water needs to seep into the ground so that it can feed life and be purified by life and the ground. In contrast, water retention landscaping techniques use small reservoirs in order to slow down water runoff, so that water has time to seep into the ground.

From what I’ve heard about the California Ground Water Law, the focus is on limiting groundwater use, i.e. limiting the amount of water being removed. Words like “sustainable” are used, but there is almost nothing said about practices that get more water back into the ground. Not only are we taking out water faster than it is going back in, we are prioritizing practices designed to prevent water from going back into the ground. By focusing only on limiting water extraction, only half the problem is being addressed.

Water Retention Landscapes

Here are some key points that I’ve understood from other communities’ and countries’ success stories with the water retention approach:

  • Water needs to keep moving, though air and land.

  • Do not try to contain 100% of the water: Let it soak into the ground.

  • Don’t build large reservoirs; build small retention ponds.

  • Build terraced landscapes.

  • Plant trees and other vegetation to hold the land in place.

  • Water retention landscapes and terraces catch water and slow it down so that it can soak into the ground.

  • Replenishing ground water revitalizes streams, rivers, and wells.

  • Water retention methods work well in areas with low rainfall.

  • The process works well with permaculture farming.

We need to learn from others’ successes. These are not mere theories; these practices show results, in shorter time frames than most of us imagine and over large areas. China, Slovakia, and India, among others, have had dramatic successes using these methods.


Restoring the Loess Plateau in China. See video: “Hope in a Changing Climate – by John D. Liu (2009)” (29 min)


See “Landscape Revitalization Program Slovakia” [webcitation]

Also video “TEDxBratislava – Michal KRAVÄŒÃK — Water is life” (12 min) (Turn on CC for English subtitles)


“Eco-Tipping Points: Making Wells Flow again in the Desert of Rajasthan, India” [webcitation]


This an excerpt, about water, from this blog: “Steps to a Global Change of Power” [webcitation]
  • The restoration of the Loess Plateau in China, with an area the size of Belgium, shows how quickly desertification can be reversed.

  • In Slovakia in 2011, 354 communities participated in the construction of 100,000 small water retention landscapes that reduce the catastrophic impact of industrial agriculture and deforestation. [actually it was 488 villages-BR]

  • In the Alwar district of Rajasthan, similar measures have caused five dry rivers to flow again, and 1000 villages now have fresh drinking water. Through this, hundreds of thousands of people have new possibilities in life.

More Terra Nova Voice blogs on water: “Category Archives: Water”

This one gives a very good overview of the changes that are needed: “REHYDRATING THE EARTH: A New Paradigm for Water Management” [webcitation]

Show the small and large water cycles
Video: “WATER IS LIFE – The Water Retention Landscape of Tamera” (12 min)

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