You drive on them everyday. They are always being repaired. They get you from point A to point B. They get you lost. They are everywhere! Roads……
As a permaculture designer I am always looking for water sources that can be used in the landscape to passively irrigate the landscape. Most people think roof catchment. Right! Well what about roads? Roads are very efficient in moving water. Some roads cause major damage to infrastructure all over the world. Let us not blame the road. It is the design. In some cases we are blessed to design all the roads on the site we are working. this is not always the case. For most of us the infrastructure of the road is already in place and the cost to move it to the exact spot is not feasible. In this post I will discuss how to use roads to move water into the landscape cheaply and effectively.
As I said earlier roads are everywhere. They are all very effective at moving water whether paved or not. On our homestead we are using the road, which is a ridge road, to move water into the landscape using water bars. Water bars resemble speed bumps. They are slightly raised gradual bumps that are placed at a 30 degree angle to where the water is needed. The gentle angle allows water to flow slow enough to reduce erosion and if built level at like a level sill spillway in major downpours. At the lower end of the water bar, off the road, there are small diversion ditches built to direct the water into the landscape. From this point one has several options. The best option is to catch the water in the landscape using small simple earthworks construction. Silt ponds (which become watering holes for wildlife) and swales are the ideal way to capture this resource that gives life to the landscape. Water!
WARNING! These are not swales nor diversion ditches. Instead taking material out you adding material to the road. Creating a speed bump. A major mistake is to build a diversion swale across the road. This is a major type 1 error. Why???? Several reasons. First , think of your poor car and the impact on the ball joints, tie rods, and hubs. If you are descending down a road come across a swale diversion your auto will be damaged. Second, a swale will collect silt and gravel and you will need to do more maintenance than necessary. Third, it is easier to add material on a road than extract it from the road.
Another note. When observing the road take note of the areas where the road starts to erode and where there are deposits. I put the water bars at that “keypoint* where the deposit area meets the gully. If the gully is real scoured then add material to the area to raise the road to level.
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