Earthworks & Earth ResourcesVideosWater Harvesting

Leaky Weirs

I cant swim, but I’ve been fascinated by water all my life and have learnt water harvesting and storage design and installation from some of the permaculture greats bio here.

I mentioned in a recent article the details about the construction of a series of ponds forming a wetland in Western Australia. At that same project, I had the opportunity of doing some work on a seasonal creek where I advised the client to install a series of Leaky Weirs based off Peter Andrews’s Natural Sequence Farming concept for water course restoration. For me, it was a great privilege to try my hands at this important work as I’ve done similar work in Morocco on a few sites using different forms depending on landscape and situation, below are some photos from showing some of that work.

Figure 1 : One rock dams


Figure 2 crescent moons AKA fish scale pattern


Figure 3: Check Dam

I was so excited to have the opportunity to take on the larger water shed restoration work I did my best to document the process and have put together a short video of the process. I am a great believer that permaculture design system is a wardrobe and we just import the technique and strategies we need for the overall design.


David Spicer

David Spicer’s approach to design and education is based upon a proven emphasis on practicality, having over 18 years experience in Permaculture education working and teaching with Bill Mollison at the Permaculture Institute (Tasmania) and Geoff Lawton, the managing director of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and Zaytuna Farm. He is renowned for his ability to explain concepts and ideas simply, conveying the basics. David previously worked as farm manager of the renowned Tagari Farm and Zaytuna Farm in northern New South Wales. He has taught and worked extensively within Australia and internationally on various projects, covering six Australian states, Morocco, Jordan, New Caledonia and Palestine covering a broad array of different climate zones. David is a valued member of the team headed up by Geoff Lawton. He has the distinction of being Registered Teacher #5 with the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. David currently serves as Lead Consultant and Educator for


  1. I live in south central Arizona. An old Native American farming technic was to dam without mortar, ravines to slow the water during monsoon season. this stopped deadly flash floods, and left behind a lot of silt behind the dam. Below the dam, the water would move slowly, sinking into the earth to feed crops with a liquid fertilizer of decaying leaves and pine needles. Eventually, the dam would fill, then crops could be planted there, as well. Dams higher up slowed the water to subirrigate croplands and drown problems like boll weevils and so on. Up around the Great Lakes, Native Americans would build up beaver dams, and do not mess with the beaver, they’ll maintain the dams for you. Wild rice and wetlands crops would be planted. When the dams filled with silt, a water gate would be cut to drain the dam, then the next year, maize and beans went in. In the event of an insect infestation, the dam could be flooded to kill the problem.

  2. TSIMAHEI, Great Info about beavers!, do you know hoy they planted those crops near the beavers without the problem of them eating everything?.
    Great article too! thank you!, it is amazing what some mini earthworks can do to restore de landscape.

  3. I have constructed swales & berms & weirs on a hillside that runs into our dam been great healing for the land we have soil now that was once clay almost ready to plant in: but we have been in drought & with every precious drop of rain we get this has prevented the dam from filling up, so I cannot use the dam as it will run completely dry. Any tips on getting more flow into the dam besides guttering from the house. Keeping in mind everything has to be done by me with teeny tiny amounts of money spent $5 to $50 dollars at the most at a time. I have managed to do the whole property layout & work this way for 15yrs now. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

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