"Building water retention spaces is the most important action one can take to heal sick trees, regenerate damaged landscapes and halt the advance of the desert" – Sepp Holzer, permaculture expert and 'Rebel Farmer'
The next major step in the development of Tamera's water landscape is now underway with the beginning of construction work for the largest water retention space in Tamera, that when full will cover an area twice the size of 'Lake 1' and will hold three to four times the volume of water. A team of specialists in construction and ecology and an excavator are already at work in Tamera's southern valley, where the dam of the retention space will soon be built.
In a speech to the Tamera community on June 23rd, Bernd Müller, director of Tamera's Ecology Department and project leader for the water landscape, gave the good news that a donation of 100,000 Swiss Francs (86,000 €) had been secured towards the financing of this new retention space, and that the work would commence within the next weeks. A detailed construction plan and a core team of specialists from Tamera had been prepared in advance so that the work could start without delay as soon as the necessary funds became available.
In the early dawn light of July 1st, about fifty Tamera co-workers, students and guests gathered on the hillside above the site of the soon-to-be-built dam. Here, looking over the southern valley while the sun rose behind, Bernd Müller introduced them to the finer details of the vision for this part of Tamera's evolving water landscape and explained the next steps in the building work. This community gathering also served to inform the land and all its beings of the work that is about to start. A song, 'Noyana – we are on our way to paradise', was performed by the whole group assembled on the hillside. In this way the right and important information – that this work is a necessary and joyful step towards the healing of nature – was given to all the plants and animals who make their homes on this piece of our planet Earth.
Members of Tamera's Ecology Team also held a ritual to inform the beings of nature who live there and to request their cooperation, and on July 4th a large excavator with a skilled driver arrived and the first major step in the work commenced: the building of a new road on the western slope of the valley to replace the public road currently running through the valley bottom.
The new road is now almost finished, and the remaining building work will continue until around mid-October when the rainy season should begin. The major work still to be done is to build wide terraces alongside the new road, to cover these with topsoil removed from the areas to be excavated nearby, and to construct the dam with the material excavated from the deep-water zone. The work is planned in such a way that only the land in the areas that are expected to fill with water during this coming winter will now be prepared. Such a large retention space, with a relatively small surrounding catchment area, is likely to take several years to fill, so the work to prepare the land may also be spread over several years.
The evolving water landsape of Tamera
The creation of this new large water retention space will bring Tamera much closer to the full realisation of the water landscape as first envisioned in 2007 by Austrian permaculture expert and 'Rebel Farmer' Sepp Holzer. During his first visit to Tamera in March 2007, he drafted a plan for how a dry land like that in Tamera could be transformed into a lush and fertile landscape with an abundance of water. Despite the long summer droughts, there is actually no shortage of rain over the whole year. The only 'problem' is that it falls almost entirely in winter, where it can barely infiltrate the earth and quickly flows away, causing erosion and flooding downstream. The vision Holzer presented to Tamera for a water landscape consisted of at least ten rain-water retention spaces of various sizes, surrounded by permaculture terraces and a healthy mixed woodland – an edible landscape providing for its human inhabitants and also for the wild creatures of nature.
This vision was initially met with some skepticism from the Tamera community. But when the huge volume of water that falls each year in the catchment area surrounding Tamera was actually calculated, the shift from thoughts of scarcity to pictures of abundance easily followed, and Tamera enthusiastically agreed to work with Holzer to create such an exemplary water landscape model for Portugal and the whole world. Only a few months later, in August 2007, the building of 'Lake 1' commenced, and since then the 'Valley Garden Lake', the 'South Lake', and two smaller retention spaces have followed.
A Water Retention Landscape is more than just a landscape with a lot of water
With its current three large water retention spaces filled to capacity after last winter's exceptionally high rainfall, Tamera already seems blessed by an abundance of water. However, a great deal of rainwater still escapes because the existing retention spaces are not sufficient to hold back all of the winter rain. The construction of the large retention space now underway will signify the breakthrough from a landscape with a lot of water to a Water Retention Landscape (a more precise term for the model Tamera is developing) that can absorb the entire rainfall of an average winter, where all water flowing away comes from springs.
Furthermore, this new large retention space, situated on the highest part of Tamera's land, will enable the water-level of all the other retention spaces to be maintained, and will provide water for irrigation (as long as this is still necessary) across the whole of Tamera's land without requiring additional energy for pumping. A number of additional springs will arise and one can anticipate the wonderful picture of continuously flowing water throughout the year, from the southernmost part of Tamera all the way to the northern entrance by the horse stables.
The creation of Water Retention Landscapes is urgently required worldwide
Along with many other regions of the world, Southern Europe is threatened by massive and rapidly advancing desertification. Annual forest fires, summer droughts and a steady loss of biodiversity and soil fertility are unmistakable signs of the encroaching desert. On the other hand, tremendously destructive floods occur year after year. Desertification and flooding are two major symptoms of the wrong management of water, in the form of industrialised agriculture and forestry, overgrazing, and the straightening and canalisation of rivers. Everywhere, solutions for better water management are desperately needed. Water Retention Landscapes provide such a solution, and the model can be applied in all regions of the world.
Note: Tamera still seeks investors and donors for the completion of its Water Retention Landscape.
Further reading: The Secret of Water as a Basis for the New Earth – Healing the Water Cycle through the Creation of Water Retention Landscapes.
Text by Jeff Anderson, July 16th 2011