Asheville and the rest of the world are facing uncertainty for the future as issues that have developed over decades or centuries arrive at a point for action. We want to establish the value of low-tech landscaping methods that use drainage and discharge or infiltration and recharge as warranted by climate or local conditions. The best place for us to store water is in the Earth. We believe that techniques proven to be effective in dry areas for centuries can be modified to apply here. The size and eco-friendly, entrepreneurial, can-do attitude of Western North Carolina can support the widespread use needed for results that show the power of these methods.
LinkingWaters, Asheville's Urban Watershed and Permaculture Project, treats storm water as a resource using water capture and infiltration methods. It is based on both technical and social aspects and began in the Nasty Branch Watershed Sub-Basin in Asheville, an ideal urban neighborhood for this project. Nasty Branch (also known as Town Branch) flows through Asheville and directly into the French Broad River. The neighborhoods around the southern leg are culturally and economically mixed, and many of the properties are owner-occupied. LinkingWaters has three initial phases: a “demonstration project” phase completed in 2010; a “neighborhood engagement” phase begun in 2011; and a “wider community” phase also begun in 2011. The Demonstration Site, named Peace and Fun Gardens, is located at 124 Choctaw Street in Asheville in a portion of the Nasty Branch Sub-Basin. Collaboration is a hall-mark of the project in all three phases.
Phase 2, Engaging the Sub-Basin Neighborhood, is a data collection and community outreach phase. Water volume and quality are being measured at the Soaker Works, and variations in water table elevations are being measured at the onsite and offsite (control) monitoring wells. Michelle Smith, owner of the property and the leader in our community outreach, has developed our LinkingWaters website with videos and updates of our work. She has also been contacting individual property owners, other stakeholders, and neighborhood leaders to build curiosity, enthusiasm and future community leadership for the project. We hope to expand the project to include at least 10 more properties in the neighborhood.
Phase 3 began in the summer of 2011 with permaculture consultant Zev Friedman of Living Systems Design and his crew replacing kudzu at the western end of the property with a milpa. A milpa is a crop-growing system based on the ancient agricultural methods of the Mayans to produce maize, beans, and squash in a mutually supporting way. He and Dylan Ryals-Hamilton, another permaculture instructor, have created an innovative format for hands-on experience with permaculture principles with their Permaculture in Action series in the summer of 2012. At the Peace and Fun Gardens they compared the productivity of a milpa in its usual honeycomb structure with the same crops in rows. The PIA series is being offered again for 2013, and promises to be an amazing experience of learning, working, and making great friends.
RiverLink, the regional non-profit organization spearheading the economic and environmental revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries since 1987 and sponsor of the LinkingWaters project, has initiated the WaterRICH program using materials and procedures developed by LinkingWaters. The WaterRICH program provides an online resource designed to assist owners of smaller sites in understanding rainwater management. They are looking for 75 residential homes or communities in Buncombe, Madison, and Haywood counties to enroll in the WaterRICH program, including the properties we identify for LinkingWaters Phase 2.
The methods can be roughly divided into Low-Tech (cheap, easy, available), Mid-Tech (you can do these if you are handy and companies also exist to do them for you), and High-Tech (you may need an architect or engineer to do these).
LOW-TECH MID-TECH HIGH-TECH
Aeration Cisterns Constructed Tanks
Berms/Swales Curbing Drip Irrigation
Diversion Swales French Drains Green Streets
Gabions Gutters Greywater
Infiltration Basins Key Line Plowing Ponds
Mulch Low Terracing Rain Gardens
Plants Permeable Pavement Roof Gardens
Plunge Pools Preformed Tanks Terracing
Roof Runoff Rain Barrels Wetlands
By filling aquifers and raising water tables, we can hope to slow the rise of sea levels and the spread of deserts for Earth, and also enjoy these benefits locally: