Urban Wetland Water Harvesting and Disposal

Wetlands Passage under concrete

My house is built on a wetland. I was excited by having an additional source of water in my basement so the reality of living on a wetland did not quite penetrate. I moved in in winter so had no idea what summer would be like. This summer has seen great downpours that sometimes flooded the basement from rain pouring in through the grate and due to the rise in the water table also flooding from beneath!

Flooded Basement

Flooded Basement

I had recurring dreams that led me to believe that the water under my house needs to be pumped out and stored in some water retaining receptacle for my own use. Initially I simply used a bucket as one would do at a well.

However, there is now so much water that it threatens to increase the rising damp which also needs to be treated. It also makes the basement an unreliable space in which to store things.

I want to terrace the passage adjoining the house. This has a gentle slope and I want to create a channel down the middle that runs into a wetland pond at the bottom of the property. Excess water can then flow into the storm water drains. Ideally, I would like it flow into the Patterson Park wetland stream. This, however, is ultimately not up to me alone but to the community within which I live.

The terraces themselves would be constructed according to sustainable permaculture principles in order to purify the water that seeps into the wetland beneath. My sense is that the cleaner the water leaving my property the less pressure it places on the wetland system.

I am glad I applied the “Observe and Interact” principle of permaculture before investing in any infrastructure and hard landscaping. This principle suggests that one observes the interaction of the elements on one’s site for at least a year.

According to Monika Läuferts le Roux & Judith Muindisi’s work, “Wetlands are still widely misperceived as swampy or marshy areas that can and should be drained to reclaim productive land. Wetlands provide very effective carbon sinks…” This was an added incentive for me to consult specialists in water harvesting and in wetland integrity.

Duck in wetlands at Patterson Park.

Wetlands Patterson Park

On their website, Johannesburg City Parks urges communities, “to refrain from using our wetlands as dumping grounds… pollutants such as human waste, plastic and litter clogged and disrupted the natural water flow, which inhibited the wetlands’ ability to collect fast-flowing storm water at a slow measured rate and then releasing it back into the river system in its most purest form.”

In addition, in some places the storm water drains are often blocked and some have collapsed; there certainly appears to be more water than these can handle.

Stormwater waste at point where wetland water seeps onto pavement.

Stormwater drains blocked by rubbish.

The challenge for me then is to work with this piece of land that has been entrusted to my care so that a permaculture solution I can enact. My hope is to harvest this water primarily to water my plants. To this end I brought in the director of Sustainable Permaculture Solutions, Nici Richter, whose depth and breadth of knowledge I respect, to give me advice to support the solutions I dreamt shortly after I moved in. I have also found a specialist plumber who has the interest and the skills to assist me implement some of the technical solutions I seek to use.

By the time I am done I will have added to the number of people in my neighbourhood who have been creative in bringing wetland elements to their properties and thus into the wetland system.

Wetland plants on pavement

Wetland plants on pavement. 

If you are interested in preserving and improving our wetlands and want to participate in a Permaculture Walkabout where the solutions for water harvesting and for safely disposing surplus water will be discussed, consider joining me on Friday, 01 February from 11h00 – 13h00. (World Wetland Day is on 2 February.)

For more information and to book your space contact me at aline@blueblueearth.co.za.

Sources:

 Monika Läuferts le Roux & Judith Muindisi, tsica heritage consultants Office: 5th Avenue, 41 – Westdene – 2092 – Johannesburg; Tel: 011 477-8821 tsica.culturalheritage@gmail.com

 http://www.jhbcityparks.com/index.php/news-mainmenu-56/1420-wetlands-2017