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I live on a sloped lot in desert country. There is little vegetation on the lot - bushes and small trees. When it rains there is 99% runoff. I want to channel the water so that it does not eat away existing structures. I have earthen (natural soil) ditching now. I am looking for ideas of what to use to remove the water without losing too much cover - with some esthetic appeal.

  • Hey, I actually taught grading and drainage in another life! Send a few pictures!! – stormy Apr 26 '16 at 22:42
  • pictures and a site plan with the slope. Where do you want the water to go? Are you intending to grow plants with it? More details=better answer – kevinsky Apr 26 '16 at 23:40
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    In a desert environment, you would do better (IMHO) to work on swales and similar features to encourage as much water as possible to slow down, stop, and soak into the ground before you let it run away, rather than trying to get it to drain even faster... – Ecnerwal Apr 27 '16 at 1:12
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    @Ecnerwal that's what I was thinking, get the water to stay. In Florida where it can get VERY dry, almost desert dry in some places, we built berms around the edges of our property to make the water go down into the soil rather than run off into the storm drains where it does no good except get polluted. – Escoce Apr 27 '16 at 2:19
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If you're living in desert country, you should be aiming to capture as much rainwater as possible, and prevent it from leaving your property if you can. If the property is sloping, you need to build swales on contour with the dirt excavated from the swale used to build berms on the downhill side of the swale where you then plant deep rooting plants to hold the berm in place. If there's a lot of water, it can also be directed into ponds for storage or underground storage if it's really a desert.

Geoff Lawton has done a lot of work in Jordan in re-greening the desert using various permaculture techniques, and the first part of the video discusses water capture.

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  • Catching rainwater is actually a good idea but may be illegal in some US states. Also it's not practical to cover his whole property with tarps. Redirecting water is still the OPs best bet. – Bulrush May 3 '16 at 13:27
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If you can dig small 6" deep ditches, and it's legal (it's illegal in most US campgrounds to use even 1" deep trenches around a tent or anywhere else), and they stay formed, use that to collect and redirect runoff. If not, line the ditches with house gutters and stake them in place somehow.

I don't know exactly how your soil is, but you might have to put a 6-12" stake in a hole in the bottom of the gutter. Before putting the stake in the gutter hole, fill the hole with silicone caulk to prevent leaks, then pound the stake right through the hole and the caulk.

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