I live in semi-arid place on the side of a steep hill covered in Juniper and Oak trees. The soil is thin and underneath is limestone rock. When it rains the water runs down the hill and into the creek. Very little water sinks into the earth. To trap rain water I have constructed berms of dead-fall branches to slow down the water on its way down the hill. My goal is to get more of the water to sink into the ground. I assume it works but we have had so many droughts over the years that progress is not really obvious. I keep building the berms in hopes I’m doing good. A tremendous ice storm last Winter has provided an nearly unlimited supply of downed branches. The Oak become firewood and the Juniper goes into the berms.
My small efforts to conserve water are meant to improve the plants on my land. So far, my well is doing fine to provide water for the humans. Other parts of the world have more serious needs for more water. One example I wanted to share today concerns how the melting of glaciers, due probably to the effects of human activity, has led to reduced water supplies.
“The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region encompasses all the high mountain chains of Central, South and Inner Asia. These include the Tien Shan, Kun Lun, Pamir, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Himalayas, and Hengduan and the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau.” In the region “Springs are the main source of water for domestic and productive uses in the mid-hills. The declining glaciers have lesser impacts on the springs especially in the lower elevations as they are more dependent on the monsoon rains. However, in the higher elevations, springs have direct connections with glaciers and their decline may affect the water flow… Groundwater is decreasing in many locations in the HKH region where its overdraft is leading to a decline in the water supply through springs.”(Prakash, 2020)
The Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHIRAG) offers “technical support to help revive the springs in their region… The CHIRAG has trained villagers to use a quite sophisticated process to increase the water flow in the springs they rely on daily. CHIRAG began by “organizing local women into ‘water user committees’ and helping them conduct hydrogeological surveys. They traveled across the region to study the topography and determine which direction rainwater might flow as well as what might prevent rainwater from reaching the aquifers — critical information as they decide where to dig trenches and pits.” (Kolachalam, 2023)
The hydrogeological surveys “helped the group locate ‘catchment areas,’ or sections of land, often bounded by hills, where the rainfall has a high likelihood of draining into water bodies or penetrating the dirt and rock and replenishing the aquifers below. The more water that sinks into the ground here, the more likely it is to reach the underground aquifers and recharge the natural springs.” (Kolachalam, 2023)
“Once the group identified a catchment area, they undertook various efforts to slow down and trap the rainwater there, including digging different kinds of trenches, such as ‘contour trenches’ and ‘percolation pits… Percolation refers to the filtering of liquid through a permeable substance. These trenches and pits help minimize surface water runoff and channel the rainwater into the soil, allowing it to filter through the ground and into the aquifers. So far, according to CHIRAG, the organization has helped revive more than 600 springs in the Indian Himalayan region.” (Kolachalam, 2023)
I am very impressed by this type of project. It is done by the people who live on the land. It is not a vast enterprise conducted by governments or well-funded NGOs. It reminds me of the old saying, Give me a fish and I eat today. Teach me to fish and I eat every day.
- Erosion and Runoff, Beautiful Hays County, Hays County Master Naturalists, no date.
- Use deadfall limbs to improve property habitat, Paula Stone, Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, Mar 3, 2021.
- Retreating Glaciers and Water Flows in the Himalayas: Implications for Governance, Anjal Prakash, Obserber Research Foundation Issue Briefs and Special Reports, Sep 15 2020.
- Himalayan springs and groundwater: Making the invisible visible, Karishma Khadka et al, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Mar 22, 2022,
- As the ‘water tower of Asia’ dries out, villagers learn to recharge their springs, Namrata Kolachalam, NPR’s Climate Week, Oct 2, 2023.
No Halloween theme this year. I made the top banner reflect the day however.