Hi Zach. I am planning to dig a .5 acrepond next year. It will be located at the base of my property and fed by a low flow creek (2" deep in a dry spell). I then plan to use a homemade hydraulic ram pump to draw down the pond (only at night.. so the neighbors don't complain!) and lift it to some higher catchment ponds (future projects!), which will then hopefully improve the quality of the few intermittent springs we have on our ridge. Once this large-scale catchment system is in place and the water is at the highest feasible point on the property, I will be able to have a real "water is life" gravity flow circulatory system to every point on the pasture/forest/gardens/dwellings and we can turn off the well and end the cycle of aquifer draw-down and salinization! My inspiration is Sepp, of course, and I am curious how much of what I am planning is my reinventing of his exact process and chronology and how much I am making my own path. Here are some insider questions I would like to know from the man--
1) I understand he has a water ram pump. I understand how this type of pump works, but where does it fit into his system historically and currently? Did he use it in the early stages of development as I plan to do? Or was it a later addition? What does it draw water from and where does it take it? What is the flow rate and the lift and how often and for how long does he run it and when?
2) I either read (in his first book?) or heard a rumor that to fill his original pond(s) he temporarily purchased the water from his neighbor's well(s) or spring(s). What are the details on this? Which pond(s) did he build first, the higher or lower ones? How long did it take before he was off the well water? If I remember the story correctly, after some time the ponds recharged springs, which he then boxed and fed into more ponds. Is this right? And, again, I wonder if the ramp pump was involved at this point or if he started at the top and let gravity do it.
3) I also understand that he now has a functioning water wheel and might even power the Krameterhof entirely or in part with hydro. At what point in the chronology did he install this component? Hydro requires a lot of drop (which he definitely has) but also significant flow.. what I am trying to conceptualize is how he began that flow and secured it as a persistent one. I crunched the numbers on the flow from my little creek (I have a modest 40' of drop over 600' of creek, but only about 1gpm of flow) and it might power my laptop or an LEDlight bulb.. badly.
Bill Mollison tells a story of his bulldozer operator claiming that "bulldozers bring the water". This is entirely true if they are used to build ponds, since the more surface dedicated to water storage, the more water runoff.. the more water you have the more water you get! Sepp definitely knows this, but what is still a little foggy for me is the concrete and incremental chronology that it took to establish his lush oasis out of the worn out human-caused pine-barren mountainside that he inherited.
Well, that is where I am at, presently. If folks have other questions about our land I can put up a satellite map with some drawings.
I don't know enough about the chronology of the Krameterhof to answer your question fully but I will share what I know.
1) Sepp is not afraid to use appropriate technology to work with the water. He has used all sorts of different technologies to move water uphill and the ram pump is certainly one of these. The one that he is currently most excited about is his dragonfly. This is still in the model phase but last time we were in Austria he showed us a model of the concept. He plans to purchase an old helicopter from the military, and this will serve as the body of the dragonfly. Solar panels will form the wings of the creation and the tail is a barrel axle wind pump. Under the base of the dragonfly is a ram pump so the creation uses Sun, Wind, and Water to move water uphill. There will be a boardwalk above the water to the helicopter, with a small cafe inside the helicopter for people to enjoy. The big thing here is because it is a piece of artwork within the strict regulations of the EU he can put it wherever he wants.
In Montana we showed Sepp a High Lifter Pump and he was quite impressed. They have two models a 4.5:1 and a 9:1. They function like this: for the 9:1 it pumps 1 part uphill for every 9 parts downhill and pumps the water 9 times as high as the fall from the source. I've been told this is an efficiency increase over the ram pump and a big advantage is that they are quite. The ram pump makes quite a loud knock every time it pressurizes the water for uphill travel. This might help keep the operations covert at night.
2) I'm not sure how he started at the Krameterhof but his approach now seems to be to start at the bottom and build the biggest water retention possible. This may even take a number of years to fill and can be used to bring water to other areas of the property. He did make sure to buy all of the water rights he could early on at the Krameterhof, this ensured legal access to the water for everything he wanted to do. I think it was just springs and surface rights that he purchased from the neighbors but I am not positive about that. The water retention spaces will certainly reinvigorate historical springs that can be cased for drinking water or other uses.
3) You have to have some pretty steady and strong flow for hydro power, it sounds to me like you don't have enough flow to bother with it. I'd imagine this came at the later stages of the Krameterhof, once the financial resources were in place to put in a system like that. Your flow will certainly increase with good permaculture, but even then 1gpm is not much to start with for hydro. Does it flow year round or is it seasonal?
Hey Zach thanks for the reply! Our creek runs year round but can get pretty low in a dry spell. Fortunately the mountains of western NC get nice even precipitation all year (folks start to complain when it goes over a week without some rainfall.. nothing like the regular summertime desert conditions of western Oregon that I am used to!). We have the right to divert the flow as long as it empties back into he creek again. Dangit that pump sounds pretty cool I wish I had gotten to see it when I was in Montana last spring. I will have to look into it. I think ram pumps usually achieve a 7:1 lift over drop and 1:6 water pumped vs lost. The lack of noise might make a huge difference for life in the holler (sound travels quite well, especially in the winter).
I am still mystified as to how Sepp generates enough flow for hydro.. I would really like to see some numbers and timeframe on that!
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