Written by Doug Crouch

Completion of a cycle can change Climates positively

Think back to biology class in high school or university. You may remember the hydrological cycle. Different books tell it different ways. Take a moment to define it for yourself.  Draw a map. Jot it down on paper. Use arrows to show motion and energy flows. (Remember all those words that end in –tion?)

The map below shows a standard textbook perspective.  Let me point out one missing factor that helps to differentiate the half and full hydrological cycles.  This picture shows virtually the whole process but also reveals how disconnected we are from what, I believe, is a universal right and key to thrivability: the source or artesian springs.  There are no springs emerging in the diagram unfortunately! Consequently, due to this factor and other factors absence, the half hydrological cycle emerges. This lack of completion is an outer representation of our dualistic, cartesian, rational way as our lack of foresight on the exploitation of natural resources has resulted in changing climates and the negative cascade. Patterns must be embraced, systems seen holistically- that is an interrelated set of parts that create.

Standard Hydrological Cycle Graph

Standard Hydrological Cycle Graph

Viktor Schauberger, referred to sometimes as the water wizard, adamantly touted the differences he was seeing in hydrological cycles, even in the early part of the last century. He saw man’s interference in nature breaking a vital cycle and was troubled deeply by it.  Imagine interference in the vital cycles of your body. What would happen?  Disease!

Iowa floods, the heart of the corn and soy belt in the states that floods often because of erasing of natural capitol

Iowa floods, the heart of the corn and soy belt in the states that floods often because of erasing of natural capital

This is precisely what is occurring on Planet Earth – flood and drought disease.  Over-consumption of energy and poisoned groundwater, famine and desertification, chlorine and fluoride, pumps and huge dams: Ouch! An intricate understanding of the cycle is vital so we can complete it. Lets cleanse this natural resource so it leaves a site with higher water quality than when it entered. All the while, our pattern aim entails slowing, spreading, and sinking water to revitalize groundwater supplies, energizing and recharging in its percolation to the caverns and aquifers of the earth as it flows over carbon and minerals.

From Callum Coast based on Viktor Schauberger's Work

From Bartholomew, Based on Viktor Schauberger’s Work (reference below)

The half hydrological cycle mainly involves precipitation and evaporation, but due to the lack of tree cover and/or perennial vegetation, evapo-transpiration simply does not happen. Soils are bare while concrete is exposed and abundant in city-scapes forcing rapid re-evaporation to occur. This tends to destabilize the atmosphere and frankly catapults onto society while stressing economic systems.

Usually, either torrential downpours flare or immediate cut-off of the rainy seasons ensue. Trees and other perennial vegetation buffer these effects. Without them, the environment suffers and so does its inhabitants, as precious natural and financial capital is erased.  Without the buffer present, rivers flood, soils erode, coral suffers, and landscapes dehydrate.  This again cascades into financial loss from property damage and societal drains in the form of famine or disease.

erosion in cropland, photo from soilerosion.net

Erosion in Cropland, Photo from soilerosion.net

The problem exacerbates, unfortunately, with groundwater levels initially rapidly rising, then dropping, due to temperature mechanics which leaves behind salt laden soils. Especially in drylands, this is how deserts form. Desertification grows diagram-of-effects-of-leukemia-on-bloodexponentially as the ground is no longer fit for receiving water, thus reducing the landscape’s ability to remain resilient.  If your body’s blood becomes sick, you get terminal diseases like leukemia.

Without buffers, the natural capital of landscape cannot perform its ecosystem services (i.e. rainfall infiltration rates fall from 100% absorption to 20% from mature prairie to corn or soy field). In human analogy, if you have heart disease, your heart will obviously not work optimally. So rainy seasons become intensified, shortened, and most importantly, the landscape is mostly unreceptive to the rainfall itself no matter the amount. Those drylands areas that receive 10 inches of rain annualy, the ground may only absorb two inches, further pushing desertification at an exponential rate. Moreover, the rain fall also evaporates more quickly because of lack of tree cover and lack of organic material in the soil, while runoff rates increase to a rate that rivers are unable to handle (the other 80% or eight inches in the examples above). With wetlands drained, beavers and other shapers of water systems largely extinguished, and soils eroded of their organic mater, there is widespread flooding, desertification and crop failure as ecosystem resilience has been exhausted.

half hydrological cycle on temperature

Effects of Half Hydrological Cycle on Temperature

The above graph shows this unreceptiveness in the context of one factor that Schauberger felt was extremely important – temperature.  Having spent time at Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon (where I did my PDC in 2005 and taught in 2007, 2008), and receiving hot water from thermal dynamics moving hot water uphill, it is easy to see how temperature does easily influence movement.  Furthermore, high pressure and low pressure systems are two other classic examples of temperature causing movement. Consequently, the above drawing shows how lack of tree cover creates a temperature regime that forces water to runoff. With the land being warmer than the rain, the earth turns to concrete in a sense, pores closed, runoff raging. This runoff picks up soils and intensifies through a watershed, decreasing water quality dramatically from point and non point source pollution.

The temperature change under deforestation also creates a sudden rise in the groundwater and then a deep dropping.  This brings forth salty conditions and is a direct cause of desertification. With deserts expanding and the consequences of superstorms and 100-year floods happening far too often, it is easy to see why permaculturists advocate for measures to complete the hydrological cycle. Attitudinally it reinforces the “act local and think global” mentality that allows us to positively impact our environment instead of wallowing in a climate change debate and depression.  We must complete local hydrological cycles to change the climate on a global scale. We all want our local creeks and streams and rivers to be cleaner- no?

full hydrological cycle

However, the full hydrological cycle shows much more balance.  Schauberger said this was literally a female/male balance analogous to the yin/yang symbol from easternYin-Yang-Symbol philosophy.  The theory being that the ocean and open land creates evaporation, a male-based energy denoted by spirals in one direction in the drawing above as it is driven by the penetrating sun.

The spirals in the other direction, the female-driven energy, is evapotranspiration. The roots of trees are tapping into “mother earth” in the form of groundwater and stored water in the organic matter at the surface of the earth.  These different isotopes in evaporation and evapotranspiration have been studied and prove this scientifically. Fortunately, this balance buffers extremes and dramatically increases the infiltration rate.  Groundwater stays at a healthy level, nourishing forests, and organic matter builds so that it can hold and store water.  The cycle is perpetuated. Rivers are less flashy and the groundwater release is more constant in rivers and streams, allowing them to run all year round in some instances. Streams run clearer, allowing fish habitat to build, and the natural process of meandering to further increase water quality and habitat creation.  Aquatic ecology builds as diversity and complexity rebound in an exponential factor, the way of the Fibonacci sequence.

Temperature Full Hydrological cycle

Temperature regimes are conducive for infiltration as the soil is cool and much more open when tree cover exists.  Of course, temperature is just one factor. The leaves and layers of the forest help to slow down and retain the water much more.

The forest- a lake beneath

The Forest, a Lake Beneath

A greater diversity of soil microorganisms is supported in perennial vegetation and forests, the catalyst for all of this.  A healthy soil food web builds organic matter, which builds more layers of vegetation, which helps to infiltrate more water, which  helps to build a healthy soil food web, which . . . on and on and on.  The next time you look at a forest you should really see a lake for all of the water that is stored there. When you see a green field of corn you should see a desert.

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In conclusion, when animals are over- or under-grazed, when soils are tilled too often and left open and bare, when chemicals are abused, and when forests are cleared, the hydrological cycle suffers. As permaculture designers, this cycle of completion will emerge as one of the most pivotal accomplishments in our quest for transformation of our society and environment. Swales and rain gardens that capture our roof and street runoff, basins for greywater recycling, keyline plowing and rotational grazing on the broadacre, tree crop prominence and reforestation, and advanced soil biology regeneration are some of the strategies and techniques we will use.

Greywater design

Greywater design

To complete the cycle is to regenerate. To break the cycle of violence on water is paramount.

“Actually, the mysteries of water are similar to those of the blood in the human body. In Nature,  normal functions are fulfilled by water just as blood provides many important functions for mankind” – Viktor Schauberger.

Viktor Schauberger

Viktor Schauberger


Bartholomew, A.  (2003), “Hidden Nature: The Hidden Insights of Viktor Schauberger.” Edinburgh, Scotland. Floris Books.

Mollison, B. & Slay, R.M. (1991). Introduction to Permaculture. Tasmania: Tagari.

Written by Doug Crouch

Header Art by Anita Tirone


  1. I live in an area scarred by the half cycle you describe. The treeless fields are plowed again and again. Hay left over from crops sits in mountainous piles and is often burned instead of tossed on top of the depleted soil. It’s almost insane. The effort it takes to burn is greater than just leaving it in the fields, spreading it about or making compost.

    • And to top that off the over plowing and use of chemicals destroys the fungal counts in the soil making it virtually impossible for the hay to break down in a time sensitive manner. This is how nature works in both ways in an exponential factor. All you can do is try and be a positive impact on a your piece or ask if they will try something different in 5 or 10 % of their acreage. Start with the part is the least productive. Earthworks with contour, compost tea, bio-diverse plantings, and creative and practical human interaction.

    • with the lack of fungal rich soils because of continual plowing, the carbon material doesn’t break down efficiently. This cause the organic matter to be problematic in the extractive model that annual agriculture dictates. By plowing and applying chemicals, the soils deteriorate and the one thing that could reverse that is this organic material. But in order to make this happen, we need to be spraying compost tea rather than organophosphates and anhydrous ammonium.

  2. Viktor Schauberger – adding him to my list of unsung heroes…good basic core presentation – it would be interesting to have a study done where a section of an urban neighborhood were to implement a full water cycle system and compare it to one void of it… also utilizing an essentially no-cost / low cost approach that even people under extreme financial duress could use… I am sure the raw data would more than convince people – especially when their water bills shrink to cents on the dollar..trick is, how do to get people (especially the younger generations) to invest more time and effort in these matters instead of tweeting, facebooking, texting and pursuing our more ‘intelligent’ past times (never mind the mass immigrant flood which is a complex challenge to work with!) – good article

    • Yes please do read schaubergers work through the writings of others if you can. brilliant wisdom. The city of Cincinnati, where i am from the states, did such a study a few years ago as we have problems with combined storm water and sewage in the same pipes. they implemented 90% of the houses with rain gardens in my brothers urban. suburban like neighborhood. Was amazing to see water quality numbers and a steadier flow in the stream below the neighborhood from simple uncomplicated holes in the ground with mulch and a few plants. I think it has to come also from the business sector as well as municipalities demanding it from consumer backlash and demand. And part of the reason i teach pdcs is so future parents or already engage their kids on such things. others go onto work with children. the idea of this online book is for it to be in high schools one day as an elective and eventually a mandatory class on sustainability. thanks for your comments and keep spreading it if you can. cheers

      • I will be passing on as much as possible and when possible. It has taken me 40 years to ‘wake up’ and realize that everything we are taught in ‘schools’ and ‘universities’ as well as ‘religious organizations’ has been corrupted with the basic root of all of man’s suffering – the love of money – or in even more basic terms , turning everything into a business for profit… as small of a group that we are, we have been charged with a most noble and just purpose which is simply to re-design our so as to be in harmony with the laws of nature and their Creator. It is by no means easy at first – old habits must be broken- new ways of thinking and behaving must be adopted, there most certainly is a certain ‘withdrawal’ to be expected when ‘kicking’ the modern ‘addictions’ of instant gratifications and conspicuous consumerism…I live in an off-grid tropical jungle where there isn’t cellphone signal or internet – let me tell you, most westernized people who travel through here last at the most a week or two before they are literally rabidly foaming at the mouth for ‘modern’ trappings! HAHA … but it is worth it! Let me tell you, once you start living according to nature’s rhythms, patterns and create a relationship with it, your life’s quality improves dramatically – in your health, sleep, sense of community (humanity) and so forth…. Permaculture is without a doubt a Godly science which works to the benefit of greater good.

      • Hey the wake up happens when it happens and that is the most important part and you are taking positive steps towards switching out of the conventional programming. Not easy but a worthwhile journey! Which jungle are you in?

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