Water as a resource in the landscape

An Advanced Permaculture Training

offered by the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute
on May 2 & 3, 2015
at Wellspring Forest Farm


The temperate northeast appears abundant in water, mostly. While California and parts of the southwest suffer the effects of long-term drought, eastern states are experiencing multiple record-breaking precipitation events.

Often there is too much water for the landscape to hold and time between rainstorms too short. Precipitation viewed over the long-term shows relatively even distribution over the seasons, yet any northeastern farmer or gardener can tell you that no two seasons are alike, and its rare to get the perfect amount and timing of rain for crops.

United States Government Report on Climate Impacts, 2009

(Figure 1) United States Government Report on Climate Impacts, 2009

With the additional uncertainty of climate change, projected water dynamics suggest an even more uncertain future. The northeast is projected to receive 67% of its rainfall in extremely heavy events (Figure 1).

Instead of gentle, soaking quarter to half-inch rainfalls, we can expect to see or more three to four-inch rain events. This has drastic implications for soils, infrastructure, and ponds, rivers, and streams, which will change rapidly in size, shape, and flow from such impacts.

The even spread of rainfall throughout the four seasons is also likely changing. In the northeast, we can expect to see a 20% increase of precipitation in winter, although more will come as rain and less as snow. Summers are projected to be drier for much of the region, with water more scarce as it is most needed for more crops. (Figure 2).

(Figure 2) United States Government Report on Climate Impacts, 2009.

(Figure 2) United States Government Report on Climate Impacts, 2009.

The good news is there is much we can do as farmers, gardeners, landowners and users to catch, store, and clean water to both mitigate the effects of flooding and erosion and to reduce costly irrigation and water infrastructure. Permaculture design views water as a resource and an opportunity for harvest of this most precious resource as Steve & Elizabeth Gabriel show at Wellspring Forest Farm.

To meet their challenges, they have designed solutions including a code-approved rainwater harvesting systems, earth works systems including swales, ponds, and terraces to harvest to store water into the soil, and productive plantings to mitigate the effects of seasonal creeks and floods that produce food and medicine for market.

During the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s course on May 2nd and 3rd, students will be able to see first-hand an integrated water design for this 10-acre landscape that includes all these features. We will explore the elements already installed and discuss their successes and failures. The class includes a hands-on installation of a new swale system and riparian buffer planting along a stream. While making observations of the land and exercising practical skills, students will gain a fuller, more complex understanding of how to see water as an asset, and capitalize on its productive potential for the land and people.

Learn more about the course


This course has a sliding scale tuition based on what you can afford. The minimum price for the weekend is $125. The fee for only Saturday’s class is $75. There is also small charge for camping at Wellspring Forest Farm. If you can afford to pay more, your additional tuition will help support the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute carry out this event and other educational programs.

Read about all the upcoming permaculture courses