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Can I use swales on property with sump pump?

 
Posts: 9
Location: Minnesota
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Hello everyone!  This is my first post.  I've been reading all about permaculture this summer and planning to clear the back yard in the next few weeks and prep with compost and wood chips for spring planting.  But I'm still very undecided about how to manage water on my property.  I'm on a 1/3 acre suburban lot.  There is a sump pump in the basement, so I know the water table is fairly high.  The property slopes gently away from the house except the west side that is fairly flat.  

The backyard is to the north and there is a water collection basin behind my neighbors house.  Between the sump pump and the collection basin, I'm a little nervous about encouraging water to stay on the property with swales.  Any recommendations for water management?  Or would small swales be okay as long as the over flow is directed towards the catchment basin?

Thank you for your help!  I'm in the Minneapolis area if that makes any difference
 
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What does this sump pump do? Does it keep water out of your basement and into the collection basin?

What is your goal using swales?

We use swales around trees to give trees a little more water, is something like that your goal?
 
Nicole Burkette Ikebata
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Hi Anne,
The sump pump keeps water out of the basement, but just spills out further in the yard (down slope).  It turns on infrequently, mostly during large rain events.  

With the swales, I was hoping to trap runoff to feed trees and other edibles.  And it seems like I can store a lot more water in the ground than in rain barrels.  I guess I'm concerned about where the water table is so I should maybe just dig some holes and check if water seeps in, or absorbs
 
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I'm not sure how swales on the north of the property help you much. If there's a clear outflow, it may be better to direct that to grow zones that have sunlight.

Whatever you do, make sure you communicate with your neighbours and make sure they will not be negatively affected. Modifying water drainage in a suburban zone can be very contentious, with 14 city departments, bylaw, engineers and lawyers in the mix -- for years. Tread carefully. My 2c.
 
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Tell us about the collection basin, is it to capture storm water and release it slowly?
That way it prevents or reduces the effect of floods
 
Nicole Burkette Ikebata
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By collection basin, do you mean the sump pump?  That is pumping ground water out further from the property anytime water in the basin reaches a certain depth.  In terms of storm water, I had planned to direct my rain water from the downspouts directly into a conveyance trench that emptied into a swale.  My goal with the swales is to slow run off and keep the water in the ground.  Should I collect it in a basin first?  I could use a couple of rain barrels.  I'd like to invest in something bigger, but I'm nervous about spending a lot of money on a big container now in case I completely fail at this food forest
 
John C Daley
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I would suggest adding some pipe to the downpipes where they meet the ground and run the water out some distance from the house.
It will ensure no damage is done to the foundations.

The collection basin will be a fairly large earthen hollow in the ground probaly located behind all the house blocks.
Its purpose may be to withhold flood water fir a while to reduce chances of flooding by allowing the captured water to flow back after the peak flood level has passed.
 
Nicole Burkette Ikebata
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Okay, I see!  Yes, I think that is what the basin is for.  I've never seen it with standing water but the neighbors say that years ago this area used to flood.  The good thing is that I can direct my overflow right to it.  And thank you for the tip about the downspouts.  I think that would make this experiment less risky

Thank you!
 
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