Updated: Oct 2, 2021
If you seek to maximize the potential of any piece of land, observing and understanding its water catchment areas (watersheds) should be one of your first goals.
Nearly every place on Earth has natural paths for drainage that have been dug out by water over time, as it flows over the contour of the land. They are simply impressions that run downhill, and they are your indicators to where the water will collect. In moist places these can be be streams or even rivers. In a high mountain desert setting like Aquarian Acres, this is where flash floods happen.
In many cases, these watersheds contribute to erosion and strip the topsoil and organic matter from the land. Instead, utilizing these areas with contour farming, swales, natural ponds, and wetlands are great ways to turn dry, nutrient-deficient places into lush spaces that retain moisture and allow for abundant growth.
It's really quite simple to identify these water catchment areas once you start noticing them. The point of permaculture is to work with the land instead of against it, and knowing your watersheds is truly a top priority. Acequias culture calls this the "wisdom of the land, knowledge of the water."
In case you can’t tell by now, identifying and utilizing your natural water catchment areas is possibly the most important premier step in restoring a freshwater landscape. That being said, water is an incredibly powerful force of nature and should not be toyed with lightly. Avoid causing problems by using safe and proven methods when doing any kind of earthen work. I believe you should also observe the land throughout all four seasons in order to gain a better feeling for it before making any major changes. Most of the time in permaculture we are using our intuition and understanding of nature to shape our projects, and that is when the true magic happens. We are all capable of harnessing the power of hydrology to build ourselves a better world.
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