The Seven principles of Water Retention Landscapes

Intro- Water Retention Landscapes 

Pollution, climate change, land degradation… everywhere we look, humans are negatively impacting their environments. But what if we told you that humans can not only live sustainably, but can actually have a positive impact and restore the land? Through creating Water Retention Landscapes, humans can reestablish contact with the land and create a flourishing environment for all living beings.

Full Water Cycle 

One crucial element of building Water Retention Landscapes is restoring the full water cycle. In a healthy ecosystem, rainwater is fully absorbed into the earth body. Natural aquifers are recharged and generate fresh springs, which feed rivers that flow all year round. Diverse vegetation such as trees and ground-cover plants use this subsoil moisture and return part of it to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, thereby creating more humid micro-climates and re-initiating the rainfall cycle.

Half Water Cycle 

At the present moment, human mismanagement has broken the full water cycle. The removal of vegetation, clear cutting forests, industrial monoculture farming, mismanagement of livestock and other misinformed practices have decreased the earth body´s ability to absorb the rainfall. This results in the Half Water Cycle where unabsorbed water stays on the surface and starts a destructive process of rainwater runoff, erosion, flooding, drought and desertification.

(We added Half Water Cycle to help understand the term, and desertification as key word)

Water Retention Landscapes 

Luckily, we have the knowledge and ability to restore the full water cycle through applying the seven principles of Water Retention Landscapes, we can restore water and life to the planet.

1) Infiltration

The most basic principle of Water Retention Landscapes is to increase rainwater infiltration. Rain should infiltrate exactly where it falls. In this way, it is stored in the soil, subsoil and deeper layers of the earth body thereby recharging aquifers and becoming available for the local environment.

2) Reduce Rain Water Runoff

Another closely linked principle is to reduce water runoff. We achieve this primarily by slowing down the flowing water with various methods like earthworks such as swales and terraces, or waterworks like ponds and lakes. We recommend beginning the work at the most elevated points of the watershed where runoff and erosion begins.

3) Aquifer Recharge

The third principle is aquifer recharge. Over the years, humans have pumped out more water from deeper ground than they have recharged, thereby depleting aquifers and further drying out the land. Water Retention Landscape management promotes infiltration that recharges the underground water storage and provides a constant supply from the upper layers in the ground.

(addition to point out that supply is coming from the upper layers, specification of the first principle)

4) Decentralized Structures

But recharging aquifers will have the biggest effect if applied in decentralized water systems. Humans can meet their needs for drinking water or irrigation by harvesting local rainfalls through many small structures like swales, ditches, ponds, lakes, terraces and wells. Thus, problematic infrastructure like large dams, deep bore holes, and piping that stretches hundreds of kilometers would be rendered obsolete.

(added drinking water, irrigation and wells to point out that centralizing structures aren't needed)

5) Building Topsoil

Building topsoil is another crucial element of Water Retention Landscapes, as this is the missing element in the half water cycle. Robbed of this living sponge, infiltration and decomposition of biomass does not happen on the ground. Vegetation and wildlife retreat and the land becomes unsuitable for growing crops. In mismanaged areas, erosion sweeps away most of the fertile soil into rivers and oceans.

How do we create this topsoil?

6) Increasing Biodiversity and Biomass

…by increasing biodiversity and biomass. By keeping all of the soil covered with diverse vegetation, plant roots give structure to the soil, increase soil moisture, and create favorable conditions for microorganisms, fungi and animals. Thus, biodiversity creates a dynamic cycle of increased vitality.

7) Wildlife (Animals)

The seventh and final principle of Water Retention Landscapes is cooperation with animals. Through careful observation and respectful contact with animals we can learn healthy and sustainable ways of management where animals become our cooperation partners. Domestic animals like pigs can help to work the soil before or during reforestation, and pasture animals can help to revitalize grasslands as they migrate through the cycles and seasons.


But for these principles to work, we need functioning communities. The earth's surface has been shaped strongly by human ways of settling, agricultural practices and warfare. Many resources have been mined and extracted in the name of conquering other lands and peoples. Future communities must establish a relationship of co-creation and cooperation with the land, all its life forms, and other communities in a network of global stewardship for our planet.

Examples from around the world show us that following these principles can transform local and regional landscapes in a matter of a few years, and together we can build a healthier world.

Order the book "Terra Nova" here