Advanced Watershed Restoration, here we come…

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It is with great excitement that we’re announcing an upcoming Advanced Watershed Restoration course at Milkwood Farm, with Craig Sponholtz. Huzzah!

As part of RegenAG, we’ve managed to haul Craig out to Australia for a couple of weeks to skill us up on some ground-breaking, doable techniques in erosion control and passive water harvesting, as first brought to prominence in ‘Let the Water do the Work’ by Bill Zeedyk.

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Craig Sponholtz teaching watershed restoration with Bill Zeedyk

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Completed zuni bowl in dry gully with headcut – water is slowed in order to prevent the headcut creeping further up the gully

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Craig’s zuni bowl how-to, taken from his ‘Erosion Control Field Guide’

The techniques used in this kind of erosion control focus on passive structures, made from natural materials – it’s all about slowing the water down, taking the destructive energy out of it that does all the eroding and damage, and then literally letting the water do the work.

The most exciting thing about these techniques is that they are scale-able, and achievable for anyone who wants to take on watershed restoration, not just those with big bucks or big trucks. These techniques can be used to tackle small (or large) gullies, head cuts and areas of erosion on a property.

We first got excited about these watershed restoration techniques when we first met Tamara + Kirk Gadzia two years back. Kirk is an excellent Holistic Management consultant and teacher, and Tamara works within The Quivira Coalition – an amazing organisation in New Mexico focussed on restoring landscapes and communities through good grazing management and watershed restoration.

A lot of these techniques are based on the work of Bill Zeedyk, a venerated hydrology and fluid dynamics expert who has for the last 30 years chosen to work in the landscape of New Mexico, working with the land and the water to develop these gentle, effective techniques, based on both his own and collective traditional knowledge. He’s done an amazing job.

There is plenty of great writing on how the Australian landscape needs to, and can be, restored with a variety of techniques. We’re all starting to grasp that when an incised/eroded channel forms, that it literally ‘unzips’ the floodplain around it, causing the water table to drop, and drying out the land.

This ‘unzipping’ happens on all levels of the watershed – wherever water is cutting into the landscape in the form of a gully, any head cut or perhaps a creek with high walls of cut earth above the normal flow, this draining of the surrounding landscape begins to occur.

We’re all familiar with what happens to land and soil that has been literally bled dry. It becomes far less productive, more susceptible to further erosion, more saline, and basically takes the land backwards. Not something we want if we’re trying for regenerative agriculture

So why bring an expert in from far away to tell us how to fix things, when there’s Aussies who understand what the problem is? To us, it’s all about effective knowledge transfer.

The reason we’re bringing Craig out to Australia to teach these innovative yet simple techniques (which have met with great acclaim in the US, because they just work) is that he’s teaching erosion control and watershed restoration in a way that is highly accessible and inspiring to boot.

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Class making a ‘media luna’ structure which can be used to concentrate or disperse sheet flow, depending on what is needed

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Multi-step zuni bowls in action… water is slowed, silt is deposited, and vegetation takes off to finish the job of repairing the situation naturally…

In other words, this is watershed restoration taught and explained in a way that can be acted apon, and effectively implemented without a degree in fluid dynamics. Which is rather helpful, as we would like to get on with restoring our watershed asap, learning as we go.

For anyone who would love to really get their head around the nuts and bolts of how to tackle watershed restoration, whether on your land or as a larger community riparian project, we invite you to come along to what will be a really excellent three days of learning and doing.

Quivira have spend a huge amount of resources over the past years in producing field guides for these techniques – it’s all very open-source and landholders are encouraged to use the resources and work with their watersheds. Craig’s work is part of this tradition and we’re really looking forward to having him here…

>> More info about the Advanced Watershed Restoration course at Milkwood Farm here.

Craig will also be teaching a couple of courses in QLD as part of his Australian trip, and details of those will be up on RegenAG.com shortly.

Craig Sponholtz’s Applied Watershed Restoration courses are a must. I was very impressed with the thoroughness, hands-on learning, and Craig’s deep knowledge – based on years of real-life experiences. The strategies taught are simple and effective. They build on natural patterns so you work with natural processes not against them.

This way nature does the bulk of the work once the structures are in place. I highly recommend these courses for anyone working with the land and water…

Brad Lancaster, author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond

For more info on erosion control and watershed restoration, have a look at:

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Installing in-stream features to slow the flow, promote formation of silt and gravel deposits and increase sinuosity of the stream without major intervention… let the water do the work!

4 Comments

  1. Posted February 6, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Water, rocks, fixing stuff up. See you there!

  2. Posted February 7, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    That’s fantastic. And good work, to boot. The “unzip” metaphor is extremely useful.

    I had a chance to do some hands-on stream restoration while working at Appleseed Permaculture. We worked with check dams and induced meander and some bank stabilization using willow. Hell of a good time.

    In my work the biggest contributor to watershed disruption is improper roof drainage. I’ve been working on some small-scale versions of this using retention ponds and swales. It’s all good fun. Cheers!

    • Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yes we’re really excited about drumming up some interest in these techniques in Australia – soooo much good stuff happening in this realm on your side of the ditch, Mark!

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] a great video of Craig Sponholtz explaining his guidelines for watershed restoration. As with much of permaculture design, [...]

  2. [...] a great video of Craig Sponholtz explaining his guidelines for watershed restoration. As with much of permaculture design, [...]

  3. [...] to have Craig Sponholtz as our special guest. As part of the field day Craig will be talking on applied watershed restoration and erosion control, as well as taking folks on watershed walks, where you will learn how to read [...]

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