Replacing Irrigation with Permaculture

I will be giving four presentations in Missoula on November 9, 10, and 11 at the Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference. See the full details here.


Recently, I gave a presentation (see video below) in Oceanside, CA, on the topic of replacing irrigation with permaculture. I will be giving the same presentation in Missoula, MT at the Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference , November 9-11, 2012.



There are scads of ideas of what permaculture is and what irrigation is. For me, based on my current knowledge set, I see a good permaculture system as one that has eliminated irrigation.

Irrigation covers buckets, hoses, tubes, or  pipes carrying water to one or more plants; permaculture is working  with nature to make sure that the plants get all the water they need using the  same tools that nature uses.

As part of my presentation, I touch on the many things that can contribute to the elimination of irrigation: polyculture, trees, hugelkulturmulchkeylineterracesswales, paddock shift grazingdew ponds, shade, and much more.

Sepp Holzer is well-known for not using irrigation systems on his land.  There are many contributors to this:


  1. He has lots of ponds. Some are deep. Some are shallow. In the shallow ponds, he puts lots of rocks. The rocks heat the water and the water evaporates. The air surrounding his farm becomes humid. He gets more morning dew than average.
  2. Sepp plants no monocultures. Everything is a mix of lots and lots of things. And there is a strong focus on deep-rooted plants. Deep-rooted plants reach deep water sources and can transpire the water out of their leaves adding to the general humidity. Plus, there can be symbiosis between the deep-rooted plant roots and fungi. And between the fungi and shallow-rooted plants.
  3. Terraces and hugelbeds do move and hold water when it rains – and then share it properly when it is dry.
  4. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks… Rocks seem to be a major component in everything Sepp does. Rocks have a powerful thermal intertia. If you stack a pile of rocks, air can move through the pile. And the rocks in the middle will be quite cool. If humid air moves through the pile, water will condense on the cooler rocks, thus creating a poor man’s drip irrigation system.
Rocks, rocks, and more rocks make the transition from irrigation to permaculture possible.

Rocks, rocks, and more rocks make the transition from irrigation to permaculture possible. Photo courtesy of Bill Kearns.

This is an incredibly rich topic, with loads of information to be shared and learned.  Come join us for the amazing, upcoming Inland Northwest Permaculture conference! If you can’t come but want more information on this topic, listen to my replacing-irrigation-with-permaculture podcast.


Paul Wheaton is is the tyrannical ruler of two on-line communities. One is about permaculture and one is about software engineering. There is even one for Missoula. Paul has written several permaculture articles starting with one on lawn care that he presented at the MUD Project 17 years ago, including articles on raising chickenscast iron and diatomaceous earth. Paul also regularly uploads permaculture videos and permaculture podcasts. In his spare time, Paul has plans for world domination from his hollowed out volcano in the Missoula area, with good submarine access.

See all of Paul’s contributions to Make it Missoula here.