Water is the Number One topic for every investor worldwide, every branch of production and every living organism; without water, there is no life, no economic development, no justice, and no peace. The fact remains that one billion people on earth don´t have access to sufficient clean drinking water. A big part of the 60 million refugees worldwide are fleeing from water-deprived regions. UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon seems to have foretold: “The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water.”
This may already be true for the war in Syria: due to an ongoing drought after years of deforestation and large dam building along the two big rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, coming from Turkey, the oldest farming culture on the entire planet has lost its foundation for a healthy economy. The result is growing poverty, extremism, despair – and war.
This is not a regional problem: the way that the globalised system deals with water and land – such as clear-cutting forests, overgrazing, channeling and damming rivers, using ground water for irrigation of industrial agricultural monocultures, sealing large sites – all of these actions accelerate the crisis. Water grabbing has become a major business. Aquifers are being depleted with fearsome speed, on a global scale. And more and more climate researchers come to the conclusion that water is a highly underestimated factor of climate change.
The good news is that there are already proven solutions. Numerous field studies worldwide have led to similar conclusions: activists and scientists in Australia, Rajasthan, Zimbabwe, Portugal, Slovakia, China and the US have found independently from one another, that decentralized water retention is able to restore ecosystems and water security and is the basis for a sustainable regional autonomy in food and water. Michal Kravcik, hydroligist from Slovakia, brings it to the key point when he says: “It is not a question of how to store and hoard water; it is a question of bringing the rain back.”
Kravcik is part of a global alliance of water activists, engineers and experts that are promoting a new Water Paradigm. “Bringing the rain back,” primarily means restoring the small or local water cycles, which are responsible for about half of rainfall. In these cycles, the same water again and again falls as rain, sinks into the ground, nourishes plants and animals, and evaporates again, in a continuous cycle. In order to keep these cycles alive, open soil and vegetation are a necessity – especially in key areas where these cycles start, which are mostly coastal regions. Long-term scientific data from America and Europe show that the biotic pump for those rainwater cycles is being destroyed by large-scale deforestation, sealing of soil, and mismanagement of water. The key concept that helps to solve this situation is helping rainwater to again infiltrate the soil upon which it falls. With this principle, the new water paradigm does the opposite of what “normal” water engineers intend: we must allow water to sink into the ground, evaporate and move freely, instead of storing it in concrete basins, channeling, and controlling it. There are multiple examples of successful implementation and positive impacts of this principle:
Rajendrah Singh known by some as “the Gandhi of Water”, initiated a people´s movement in Rajasthan which built thousands of traditional “Johads” – simple constructs of stone and wood to slow down rainwater and give it time to filter into the ground. The result: a half desert of hundreds/thousands of square kilometers has become fertile again, 2000 villages are able to provide a living for their inhabitants again, and the ground water table has risen from 100 to 12 and 13 meters.
In 2007, with his NGO “Water and People” Michal Kravcik organized a government-sponsored project for regional water retention: thousands of people constructed tens of thousands of simple check-dams. As a result, the capacity of the soils of that region to store water has quintupled, soil fertility has risen, and there is no longer a need to build huge dams.
In the 1950’s, farmer and engineer P. A. Yeomans from Australia invented the keyline system. By creating many small, parallel ditches along the contour lines of a site with a special plough, natural water balance can be radically improved, and erosion minimized. Alan Savory, who was raised in Zimbabwe, studied the grazing patterns of wild herds and their positive impact on the water capacity of grassland. He also observed that normal cattle grazing does not have this effect, in fact quite the opposite; it hardens the soils, and rainwater can not filter into the ground. Savory developed the method “Holistic Grazing Management”, a computer-driven grazing system with flexible fences which copies the patterns of wild herds, utilizing intensive, but short grazing. As 40% of the landmass of the planet is grassland, this method is a very effective and inexpensive way to improve the global water situation.
Under the guidance of eco-visionary and mountain farmer Sepp Holzer, the peace research center Tamera in southern Portugal has, since 2007, been building a water retention landscape on a site of 150 hectares. Reforestation, garden terraces, ponds, lakes, ditches, all built exclusively with natural materials, slow down the water and give it time to filter into the soil. The results are highly apparent: a site that was threatened by desertification and tree mortality is now green throughout the year and can irrigate its cultivated land without any groundwater (wells), even in the summer.
There are many more examples for the extraordinary effects of decentralized and holistic water management. Were these principles and their decentralized and inexpensive measures to be applied worldwide, it would have an enormous effect, not just on one region, but on a global scale; the small water cycles would carry their water again to regions which are presently in extreme water shortage. Areas which we thought have been lost to desertification would be fertile again. Regional food economy would be possible in many places. Even the many of the effects of climate change could be reversed. According to Victor Schauberger, a visionary and inventor from the last century, the “revelation of the secret of water would pull the rug on all kinds of speculation.”
For this purprose, Rajendra Singh, Michal Kravcik, Bernd Müller from Tamera and a growing number of water activists have formed an alliance to promote the new Water Paradigm. Based on the “Global Action Plan on the Restoration of Ecosystems and the Climate” by Michal Kravcik, they elaborate on a strategy for making the holistic approach to water understood globally and applicable in many places.
Bernd Müller says: “It is a global strategy, but the protagonists will not only be global players like governments or big corporations. The protagonists will be villages and communities. We need living models in many regions which work as showcases and training centers and show the positive effects on every level. Neighboring villages and regions will then begin to apply it as well.”
This is where the role of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) comes in. GEN connects thousands of traditional villages and intentional communities around the world which are committed to apply strategies for ecological and social sustainability. Many ecovillages have already taken on the role of a lighthouse for their region, being the first to try out strategies for ecosystem restoration and social sustainability, teaching and showcasing them and testing them under their unique regional conditions. In many cases, the regional and national GEN networks have become partners with grassroots initiatives, governments, universities, businesses, and other local and national stakeholders and allies for a more just and sustainable society. With this background, GEN could be the ideal carrier for the new water paradigm. If only fie ecovillages on every continent would declare themselves as “Water Responsible Communities”, it could have a huge multiplying effect on the whole region.