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Glossary for Water

This glossary covers: Water terms
A-frame level vs bunyip level vs laser level
A-frame and Bunyip levels are simple tools for measuring slope, finding contour lines on a property and determining the placement of water-harvesting earthworks or swales. Ditches on contour, or swales, on a slope reduce erosion, increase water infiltration, make water more available to downslope plants, and therefore facilitate reclamation of degraded hillsides. An A-frame is literally a frame in the shape of an “A” which includes a weight that hangs freely and indicates slope by its tilt. It is easy to make, and easy to use but is laborious for large pieces of land. A bunyip, or water level, consists of a long clear vinyl tube filled with water, with each end attached to a tall stake that is marked in inches or centimeters. The tube can be many feet long and this simple, hand made tool can be used to measure slope on larger pieces of land. A laser level uses a laser to measure slope, is very accurate at large distances, and can be used on any size project.
aquaculture
An integrated aquatic system of aquatic plants, fish and other pond life grown for consumption. This system may achieve more protein per square meter than any land based system. Both marine and freshwater species can be farmed in landbased ponds or open ocean production.
aquaponics vs hydroponics
ponics Greek for toil, labor; exertion. Hydroponics uses plant-specific nutrient solution instead of soil to grow plants in a recirculating water system. From hydro water. Aquaponics is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and fish in a recirculating environment. It is similar to a hydroponics system except instead of adding nutrients, fish waste is the nutrient-generator. That is, you feed the fish (this is the only input), the fish create waste, and that waste is converted to nitrates (plant food) by using beneficial bacteria, enabling a large amount of protein and vegetables to be grown in a small area. Chemicals cannot be used on plants in aquaponics because they will kill the fish so it is organic production by default. Hydroponics usually uses chemical fertilizers and sometimes other chemicals. Both systems recirculate water and use a fraction of what is used in conventional gardening. Both systems are particularly suitable for urban settings, but aquaponics may be more sustainable from a number of angles.
berm vs swale
A berm is a level mound, shelf, or other raised barrier separating two areas. A swale is a ditch dug on a contour, used to capture rainfall so that water can be held long enough for it to soak into the earth, where it can be used by plants. A bern is raised, a swale is dug into the earth.
chinampas
An ancient, sustainable agricultural method of creating raised crop beds on shallow lakes, swamps, ponds, or lowlands. Chinampas may be the most productive agricultural design ever developed by humans, producing up to 7 harvests per year from a single bed of vegetables, fruit, and lattice-grown vines, plus fish, water fowl and water plants from the water channel. Once a plant’s root systems are stable, a chinampa never has to be watered. Because the ground is permanently moist, nutrients stay suspended and available to the plant roots, creating a perfect root zone environment. Biomass at the bottom of channels is used for increased garden fertility. Ducks eat the plants at the shore; their droppings & insects become food for fish. Fish raised in channels are easy to harvest with nets. Ducks and geese eat weeds and slugs on the banks and in the garden beds. And so on. (Midwest Permaculture)
contour
Imaginary line with all points at the same altitude or level (Mars)

diversion drain
A drain designed to remove excess water from an area without causing erosion.
earthworks
In Permaculture designs, earthworks are tools for earth repair that range from small such as building garden beds to large such as building swales and dams, using everything from hand tools to big machines. Earthworks are primarily used to stop, spread and soak water to catch energy and enhance life systems, slow or stop erosion, and create underground water storage on the site.
french drain
A French drain (aka weeping tile, blind drain,rubble drain, rock drain, drain tile, perimeter drain, land drain or French ditch) is a trench covered with gravel or rock or containing a perforated pipe that redirects surface water and groundwater away from an area.
keyline
The keyline plowing pattern, following the keyline across the landscape, creates a drainage or water flow system in the subsoil 12-16 inches deep to move water from wet areas to dry areas. It reduces compaction and slows water moving down the slope allowing optimum absorption of rainfall and preventing erosion. These effects increase healthy topsoil due to the increase in nutrients and water. An additional benefit is carbon sequestration whereby plants and micro-organisms store carbon in the soil.
keypoint
The position on a mountain or hill where the slope changes from convex, where it sheds water, to concave, where it collects water. This is the highest point on the landscape where one can cost effectively hold water.
keypoint dam
A dam placed on the keypoint of a slope to retain water for later distribution.
spillway
A ledge on or near a dam that is several feet below the top of the dam (on a large to medium sized dam), so as to allow an overflow. The most sustainable spillways are long and flat, so that water sheets over them instead of cutting through, and they should be placed away from the dam center.
swale
A ditch dug on a contour, used to capture rainfall so that water can be held long enough for it to soak into the earth, where it can be used by plants. Sometimes swales are connected to a dam that collects pond water, but they can stand on their own.
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