Plant Trees to Save Water

ANDREA CONNELL – All farming/gardening practices demand that we have a water management plan. It is not as simple as turning on a hose anymore; it may not even be as simple as drawing water from a pond or any other natural source. Fresh, clean, uncontaminated water supply is rapidly becoming a scarce and precious resource. It needs to be managed carefully and thoughtfully in every garden design and indeed in every household. We need to approach water use with an eye on consumption and conservation at all times. The practice of permaculture offers a comprehensive and practical approach to water resource planning.

Think like a Permaculturist:

  • keep all water on site
  • consider all the things we need/want water for
  • consider all the possible sources of water
  • consider sources of contamination
  • consider ways to slow it, sink it, store it and spread it!

Water Facts:

  • 1% of the world’s water is actually fresh, unsalted water. Of that fresh water, less than half of it is flowing through rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. The majority of the remaining 1% fresh water is in fact found in glaciers. The percentage of fresh water in the world at any one time remains relatively consistent.
  • There is no such thing as “new” water. The existing supply of fresh water is being used time and time again. That water that comes from your tap has been recycled since before the dinosaurs. The same water in your glass has watered plants, fallen from rain clouds, and been consumed by numerous other people over time. 
  • Global consumption of fresh water has tripled over the last 50 years. The majority of this increase can be attributed to agriculture, which accounts for over 70% of water use globally, and energy, which uses about 20%. Unfortunately, many agricultural uses source water from underground aquifers, which can become permanently smaller as water is removed.

Permaculture designs using trees.

There are many ways to conserve and manage water in any development project, garden or farm. In permaculture we design using trees as a key design element. Trees planted in a variety of species will help create proper soil structure, prevent erosion of much needed topsoil, and help prevent drought by drawing moisture from great depths. Deciduous trees also provide ample mulch material again to help prevent drought and provide organic mass to build topsoil. Trees are a critical part to the hydrological cycle which ultimately returns fresh water back to source.

The Hydrological Cycle: 

Clouds are formed from water that evaporates from the ocean, lakes, and rivers and from trees. Rainfall then redistributes the water back into the system and replenishes our lakes and rivers. Deforestation is a major issue because it is reducing the amount of trees in the hydrologic cycle. Trees serve to pull water from the ground, where it is then collected in their trunks and then released into the air through their leaves. Trees are so important to the hydrologic cycle in inland areas that very noticeable changes such as streams drying up and significantly less rainfall can be seen in large areas of deforestation.