Reverse Drought with Eco-Friendly Water Harvesting Technique


Target: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (head of USDA)

Goal: Fund water-harvesting earthworks to curb excessive water use and ease drought conditions.

Most of the developed world is suicidally over-reliant on underground water pumped from wells, while a very substantial ration, delivered right to everyone’s doorstep in the form of precipitation, is almost always overlooked. This water resource should be utilized by individuals and farms alike.

Swales, uncompacted, level ditches that are dug along the contour of the land and planted with groundcover plants and trees, slow precipitation, causing it to fully saturate the landscape before any additional water can leave the site as runoff. When a contour dam (a pond) is attached, it can store a great deal more water for future use; water that would ordinarily leave the site as runoff. This earthwork combination can be repeated at intervals all across the site.

Each swale can simultaneously support tree crops, soil-building plants, and understory crops. They are good for mixed orchard applications. Between swales, traditional crops can be planted, and will only be benefitted by the swales and dams/ponds.

In addition to decreasing the demand for well water, which depletes our precious aquifers, a significant portion of the water slowed and trapped when using this strategy ends up actually replenishing these aquifers. It has also been found that the trees that are supported by these swales actually emit cloud-seeding bacteria that increase the amount of precipitation that arrives onsite. In other words, this strategy prevents and even dramatically reverses drought.

The USDA needs to fund responsible land use practices like this one in order to help them replace the environmentally devastating practices that are the norm right now. This can be accomplished by providing subsidies, rebates, and/or grants to individuals and farmers.

[Please note: Swales and ponds are not appropriate in some rare circumstances, like on some islands for example. Please defer to a Permaculture consultant before using earthworks.]


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As the present drought epidemic demonstrates, our country’s over-reliance on well water cannot be sustained. This dependence can be sufficiently curtailed by making full use of precipitation before resorting to pumping water.

An important strategy that accomplishes this goal is the installation of water-harvesting earthworks; namely swales (uncompacted, level ditches, dug on contour) attached to contour dams (ponds). These swales should be planted with trees and groundcover plant species, at minimum. The swale creates 100% soil saturation in the event of precipitation, and precipitation arriving after saturation is stored for later use in the attached pond.

This earthwork strategy prevents and reverses drought in at least three ways: it cuts demand for well water, the soakage described above replenishes local aquifers, and the trees planted in the swales increase local precipitation by emitting cloud-seeding bacteria from their canopies.

This water-harvesting strategy is indicated both in residential and in agricultural applications. I urge you to fund the installation of such earthworks, through grants, rebates, and/or subsidies, in order to reverse the dangerous trend toward misusing our water resources before disaster strikes.  In doing so, please be sure to utilize a certified Permaculture consultant in order to ensure that any new policy promotes only best land use practices and warns against any relevant contraindications.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Facil Ser Verde

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