Our main sources of water are rainwater and a stream that runs through the quinta year round. Even though we have year-round water, we plan to engineer the landscape for maximum water retention. The soil everywhere on the quinta lacks humus, whether a result of continuous cultivation or the substitution of pine forest for indigenous deciduous hardwoods, so its capacity to retain water through the dry summers is limited. This not only impacts on our irrigation needs but increases wildfire hazard. More than that, slowing the passage of water through the landscape is as essential as – and indeed is essential to – restoring life and health to the soil.
“From water everything originates. Therefore, water is the universal natural resource of every culture or the foundation of every physical or mental development. The unveiling of the secret of water will put an end to all manner of speculation or calculation and their excesses, to which belong war, hatred, envy, intolerance and discord of every kind. The thorough investigation of water therefore truly signifies the end of all monopolies, the end of all domination and the beginning of a socialism arising from the development of individualism in its most perfect form. If we succeed in unveiling the secret of water, in understanding how water can emerge, then it will become possible to produce all qualities of water at any location, and then one will be able to make vast areas of desert fertile; then the sale value of food and also that of machine power will fall so low that it will no longer be worthwhile to speculate with it.”
Viktor Schauberger, from Das Wesen des Wasser (The Being of Water), 1934
In Portugal, since around 1980 (ie. following the massive expansion in eucalyptus planting) the autumn rains started to fall off, reducing in quantity, starting later, or failing altogether. The bulk of the rains started shifting to the spring where the severity of rain events also increased, meaning that the bulk of the rain runs straight off the land. Aquifers are not being replenished. Trees like the native oaks and chestnuts are going into summer less than fully hydrated and consequently getting more and more stressed. This trend is becoming more marked with every passing year.
This isn’t down to some nebulous global “climate change” that’s just so big we all throw our hands up, roll over and do nothing about it. It’s a local problem. And it’s only a multiplicity of similar local problems which have made it global. Humanity has messed too much with local hydrological cycles – the ‘small water cycles’ – until we’ve broken the feedback loops. The result is that too much water accumulates in the atmosphere and oceans and has no easy mechanism for returning to the land. When it does so, it does so with increasing drama and destruction.
This has been the elephant in the room for a while now. Everyone has been obsessing about carbon emissions, but water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas and accounts for some 95% of the changes we’ve seen.
This video explains …
My thinking on the subject of water has been enormously influenced by the work of Viktor Schauberger. I was excited by it because of the emphasis he places on the vortex as the primary energetic form pattern in nature, something which I’d discovered through my own explorations, and because many of his insights came through a conscious engagement with natural energies, again echoing my own process. I bought The
Water Wizard, which I’m slowly (it’s not a quick read) working my way through.
From the introduction to the book:
"Viktor Schauberger (30 June 1885 – 25 September 1958) was born in Austria of a long line of foresters stretching back some four hundred years. He developed a gift for accurate and intuitive observation so great that he was able to perceive the natural energies and other phenomena occurring in Nature, which are still unrecognised by orthodox science. Refusing to attend University at the age of 18, to the fury of his father, Viktor Schauberger left home and spent a long period alone in the high, remote forest, contemplating, pondering and observing any subtle energetic processes taking place in Nature’s laboratory, where they were still undisturbed by human hand. During this period he developed very profound and radical theories, later to be confirmed practically, concerning water, the energies inherent in it and its desired natural form of motion. These eventually earned him the name of ‘The Water Wizard’."
Schauberger’s insights about water are profound and far reaching. He observed that when water is exposed to light and warmed by the sun, it loses its vitality and becomes sluggish. Exposed for long enough, it dies. He meant this quite literally – in his view water is a living thing, the lifeblood of the planet, rather than just a simple inorganic compound of hydrogen and oxygen. It’s at its most vigorous and vital when it’s close to its maximum density, ie. at 4°C, and in darkness. It needs freedom to move, to flow, to meander, to be in the way that it is, not forced into straight lines or rectilinear containment. Straight lines and angles prevent the formation of the natural vortices and circulation patterns that are essential to maintaining water in its optimum state of aeration. Consequently it stagnates, and like anything else that’s died, decomposes and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, moulds and algae, requiring filtration and chemical treatment to make it ‘drinkable’ again.
He also observed that the multi-layered vegetation of a natural forest creates an abundance of water, something which has been demonstrated through the restoration of degraded drylands to tropical rainforest from Brazil to Borneo.
Here’s a video documentary (somewhat stilted but still good) about Schauberger’s work (42 minutes). An accessible account of his work is also available in the book Living
A much more detailed (though rather poor quality) video exposition of Schauberger’s work by Callum Coats can be found here.
I’ve also been inspired by the work of another Austrian, Sepp
Holzer. His work has informed what’s being done at Tamera, an eco-village in the Alentejo. This is a landscape already regenerating from a comprehensive focus on water retention. More information on the perspective on water at Tamera here.