Has anyone tried Rain Water Harvesting in Farms?

Hi All,

I am really surprised and rather disappointed at the lack of water in my farm. It’s in the heart of western ghats and the area receives upwards of 1500mm of rain a year and yet, by January, the stream that runs by the side of my farm goes dry and even the wells go dry by Feb. I started digging a well and we have reached 50 ft without any sign of water.

This is got me researching about rain water harvesting methods, particularly recharge pits. Does anyone here have experience with them? Can anyone vouch for their usefulness? Is it worth spending another lakh or two diggging trenches all over my farm?

There’s something called KFP (Kedia Farm Pattern) advertised heavily on the web. Has someone used this technique before? It’s patented and quite expensive. I am therefore worried about sinkng some more of my hard earned money on this.

Any help/ guidance welcome. You can also directly email me at aravind.krishna@gmail.com

Thanks in advance,
AK.

Hi?
If you provide complete information of your land and its location etc, than I can suggest with my knowledge.

DNS,

I can completely understand your situation since I am also in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Hilly terrain and large rainfall (3 meters in my case!) is a bad combination for farming and we need to be very clear about the challenges facing us here.

  1. Water runs off the slopes by December and we are left dry for the summer. It is therefore extremely important to slow down the flow and increase water retention to maximum possible. This has to be done through RWH measures and also one point that most people miss - increase in humus content. This is supposed to improve soil quality and helps retain moisture longer. This is a big subject and has many aspects to it - forest canopy cover, covering of the top soil with biomass etc.
  2. The biggest problem is erosion of soil. Water carries away tons of precious top soil to lower regions, which have fertile farms thanks to the hills! This can only be and must be arrested by all possible measures - a good book on soil and water conservation measures will help. This would consist of doing a contour survey of your land, understanding your location w.r.t. your local watershed and then planning and executing necessary measures like bunds and trenches. There is no common ‘standard’ solution or formula that fits all - you have to understand your specific situation and build your strategy.
  3. Soil erosion and water run off are obvious problems. The hidden problem is leaching of nutrients! Plant nutrients available in the soil in soluble form get carried away (to the same lucky buggers in lower regions >:() and leaves our soil depleted. Large trees have large and deep roots which are not very dependent on the top soil, which sort of explains why plantation models do well in the hills rather than seasonal crops, grains etc. which depend on good top soil. This again highlights the importance of soil and water conservation measures.
  4. I suggest you don’t waste any more effort and money digging wells. If you have red laterite soil, as is most likely, wells are rarely successful unless you have a known rock layer underneath. Again the location of the well should be at the lowest point in your plot, but also as low as possible in the local watershed - it seems wells on hill tops are rare. It would be better to understand your contours and then take S&W conservation measures under good guidance.

In a nutshell - in the hills, RWH is not an ‘add on’ activity or a ‘nice-to-have’, it is the foundation and first step of all farming activity. And yes, lots of material is available on the internet too.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

Naren

I am trying to find more information on this too. Quite interesting to see this is as much a consideration even with 1500mm and 3000mm of rainfall as our 700mm.

Reading some permaculture references and on the pointreturn site, digging swales seems to be much recommended by identifying contour lines. goodnewsindia.com/pR/2009/12/swales/

Very interesting to see water conservation methods are ‘patented’! Please don’t tell me I am not supposed to dig swales and fill them with morum in my land. While the KFP site does not exactly say what methods are applied, my guess is the concept being similar to morum filled swales, possibly with some plastic to divert the water into the channels.

AK, I don’t have any experience or advice, just a friendly tip to direct your research towards “watershed management”. The term “rainwater harvesting” is used in the context of urban planning. In agriculture, the appropriate term is watershed management. There are lots of resources on the web on this topic and very little if you search for rainwater harvesting for agriculture. I speak from personal experience.

PS: BTW, I’m curious, please share the information you have about Kedia Farm Pattern (KFP) pricing.

There are few government schemes for RWH in the private lands. I too face similar problem of water scarcity during summer. In Tamilnadu, the govt helps in digging with its machinery. They dig 80 feet x 60 feet x 10 feet (depth) and give Rs 10,000 free to the farmer under this scheme. I have already applied and shortly this work will be taken up. Two of our open wells are at the lower level from the RWH pit. I hope similar scheme may be available in other states too.

From their site: Rs. 22,500/- per hectare Plus Taxes & Cost of murum (porous soil) extra, wherever required.

Dear AK1311,

My 2 cents will be as follows:-

  1. Trenching is one of the best methods especially if your land is slope and the water retention is low. Dig 2 feet width and 1.5 feet height of trenches in your area and once you are convinced about the usefulness of trenching, you can go for the entire area of the land.  The number of trenches should be along the contours and can be placed at 10 feet from each other.
  2. Recharge Pits / Open Ponds can be situated at the lowest point of your land so that the excess rainwater which have not been taken in by the trenching methods can reach here and seep in.
  3. The water retention is good if the land has lot of grasses, bushes that enables the water to go deep rather than just eroding the top soil.
  4. Another method is Trenching with the same parameters mentioned above but completely covered with broken sticks of plants, dried fallen tree leaves, dried grasses and other bio-degradable elements which are covered upto 3/4 of the height of the trenches.

Regards
Padmanabhan Ganesan
9840807817

Or Rs. 9375 / acre + extra. Thanks Chandra.

Apart from trenches, another solution is check dams. Quoting below from an article:

[…]

[quote]The starting point is rainwater harvesting. Kothapelly receives annually about 780 mm of rainfall, mostly in the rainy season during July and August. This is when the dam shows its worth and the now empty reservoir fills up. Along with dozens of other water storage and diversion structures, it traps enough rainwater to replenish groundwater and fill 28 local wells. Harvesting the rainfall also prevents soil being washed away by torrential downpours. They don’t look impressive, but the scattered check dams, gully dams, and percolation pits are potential lifesavers.
[/quote]

Read complete article and watch the videos below.

Smart Farming in India

youtube.com/embed/TRXZfRKxrs4

Experiment demonstrating how check dams stop soil erosion and conserve water

youtube.com/embed/Q-3nJFBu58A

Hi All,

I am really happy to see so many responses in one day. I think we have a really enthusiastic community here, which is really good. Thanks for the interest.

Naren,

I guess I have to agree with you on the well part. We have reached 50 ft almost, without water. At best, it will makeone hell of a recharge pit! :slight_smile: I am planning to go big on RWH before the monssons this year. I have cancelled all my planting and will invest the entire budget for RWH. I just want to get hold of a good consultant who won’t charge me a bomb.

Chandra,

I will look at the links once I reach home tonight. Thanks.

Newbie,

Thanks for the tip buddy! I will search for watershed management. I was getting frustrated with so many sites showing me household RWH tips and so little for farms. Appreciate the help!! The quote that I have got for KFP is 2.5-3 lakhs for a 11 acre farm! :frowning:

Mr.Ganesan,

I think the most effective plan for me is deep trenches (8 ft deep, 4 ft wide, about 20-30 ft long), filled in with jelly stones, larger at the bottom, smaller ones at the top, with a top layer of coconut husks for filtering. Planning to have 3-4 trenches dug this summer. We’ll see the effect this monsoon. I also plan to dig a basic pond at the lowest point of my farm, right next to the stream. We’ll line it with stones later.

Thanks once again and keep the suggestions coming. First hand experiences even more welcome! :slight_smile:

-AK

AK, you’re welcome. I’ve had the same experience. Also, do look up the check dam videos in my last post when you have time. As to KFP, that’s Rs.25,000 for an acre as per your quote… much higher than what’s on their site.

Yes newbie, I plan on watching the videos once I reach home tonight.

KFP is advertised as 22,500 per structure (additional charges for “murram” soil, i don’t know what it is). They claim that they can harvest 80% of the water and store it underground thereby reducing irrigation requirements. That’s what got me interested in them. All their case studies sem to be industrial plots who don’t seem to mind spending lakhs on such initiatives. It is a little costly for small farmers like me. :frowning:

Hi AK,

My native is Sringeri, this is some part of Western Ghat.I see the same situation there also. The wells goes dry in summer even at a place called Malenadu.

A lot of “Ingu Gundi” water sinking pits, are being dug near Kollegala. Again a money spinning game.

Try building check dams for the spring running near by. I have seen at some places it really helps.

If you are in Bangalore on 21 Apr drop in at lalbah. at 10 AM. A few of us are meeting there.

Regards

Murali

You may want to check 124.124.193.235/patentgrantedSearch/(S(lwbuyu553amttd55101zmo55))/completeSpecification.aspx?ID=1345/MUM/2004  this is from ipindia.nic.in/ where it is granted patent.

[color=blue]Mod Note: The links don’t work anymore.
Updated public documents are at: farmnest.com/forum/new-trends-in … /#msg10941[/color]

Thanks for the invite Murali. I’ll definitely there. Please email me your number(email id mentioned in my first post) and I’ll call you once I get there on 21st.

Thanks,
AK

Hi AK

Go thru this link and you may find some answers. I

goodnewsindia.com/pointreturn/online/swales/

Regards

Murali

[quote="hegdegg"]
You may want to check 124.124.193.235/patentgrantedSearch/(S(lwbuyu553amttd55101zmo55))/completeSpecification.aspx?ID=1345/MUM/2004 [color=blue][/color] [/quote]

Great work Hegde. Here’s the relevant part of the patent:

[quote]Now the inventor with his innovative idea has made a Bandhara with PVC sheet by digging an underground trench inside the boundary of the farm, 2ft wide and 5 ft (minimum) - 10ft (maximum) depth, wherein the wall of this trench (nearer to the farm boundary and away from the slope) & bottom of the trench is covered with a 12ft wide PVC sheet and the trench is refilled with porous soil. The rain water collected inside the farm boundary percolates speedily underground through this trench (along the vertical PVC sheet up to a depth of 10ft), thereby avoiding run off loss of rain water as well as the evaporation loss. At the bottom of the trench water flow becomes horizontal (due to PVC sheet at the bottom) & this percolated water spreads horizontally inside the ground, away from the trench in backward direction & water contents of the soil increases to a great extent. The water in the soil moves upward by capillary action & downward by gravitation, increasing ground water level substantially.

This trench (lined with PVC sheet & refilled with porous soil) acts as an artificial recharge path for rain water. When the quentity of water in the soil increases more than field capacity of the soil (say 2 0%), water starts flowing down towards the well & to deeper levels underground. In any case this soil water below field capacity is available to hair-roots of the trees & crops. As a result there is more than 75% saving in water & power for irrigation.[/quote]

I’ve been digging up the precise method of KFP myself and found this image (attached) which illustrates the above quite well. [color=blue][/color]

(PS: For those who haven’t seen it, there’s also an animation on KFP website [color=blue][/color] that helps)

[color=blue]Mod Note: The links don’t work anymore and there is a claim from KFP that the image attached is not in public domain - hence removed.
Updated public documents are at: farmnest.com/forum/new-trends-in … /#msg10941[/color]

What is the amount of water do your get in your farm?.  If there are already water logging area, by having catchment area, you are going to increase the water logged area.  Its worth noting that if the water is logged in your farm for the entire monsoon, you would have the root rot.  I too hail from Western Ghats area, we have water draining trenches ( or what ever it is called) all over our farm, if this is closed we have seen all of arecanut and coconut trees getting spoiled because of water logging.  It would be worst if you have little clay contents in it.

Went thru the patent of KFP ( nowhere else if could get any info on how the water harvesting is done),  this uses pvc sheets to collect water,  i am sure this is not suitable to our farm.  In my opinion this would just increase the problem in rainy season.

As some Murali suggested “Ingu Gundi” water collecting pits may be a solution, but definitely not in your farm,  i think it should be all over the forest and hilly area where lots of pits can recharge the area and have the water table raised.

Other rule of having the water collecting area at the lowest level in the farm land also will not be applicable if you consider the whole geography, may be highest point in your farm may be lowest point if you consider the larger area, so violating this rule may be beneficial.

Please note i am no expert in this, but having farm land in Western Ghats drives me to think in this way.  We certainly have a unique problem of excess water in rainy season and no (less) water in summer.

Please check goodnewsindia.com/pointreturn/on … d/3/  same website as Chandra mentioned , but it talks about developing a pond  .

Thanks