Water resilience – Visegrad project 2019

Our environment is progressively getting degraded because of over-exploitation of natural resources. In a degraded landscape with little or no tree cover, and subsequently little soil cover, rainwater is not able to percolate into the ground. We lose rich top soil with this running water, which flows away into the streams. It is a vicious cycle — no top soil, no vegetation, increased run off of water and further erosion of top soil – exacerbated by climate crisis resulting either in prolonged drought periods or sudden floods.

Water Earthworks

Well-designed water harvesting earthworks such as rainwater harvesting on roofs, ditches, ponds, swales and dams are the most effective way to channel water into productive use. The result can be increased food production, higher groundwater levels, reduced irrigation needs, reforestation and enhanced ecosystem resilience. These earthworks help to restore hydrological cycles with specific land-use techniques and biological resources, creating water security for people along with renewed viability for ecosystems.

Water Resilience Project

We have started a water resilience project in 2019 thanks to the financial support of Visegrad Fund. We offered a unique, practical, 5-day Water Retention workshop, in autumn 2019 that showed the main techniques that can be applied to conserve water and build soil on landscape level (rainwater collection and storage, pond, swale and earth dams construction). Selected partners from each of the Visegrad countries were invited to learn about water retention techniques and spread the knowledge in their respective countries about water earthworks, along with few other participants (mostly farmers) from nearby countries. They learnt to understand the principles of permaculture design in earthworks: reading the site, interpreting contour maps and using surveying tools. The course had a strong practical component – we rented a digger and made a real pond.

Next, we keylined about one hectare of land with a subsoiler to prepare the ground for tree plantation and make the land drought-proof (about the technique of keylining see below). A water resilient, edible forest with 14 species, mostly nut species, were planted on an infertile area with more than hundred people, most of them children on a beautiful autumn Saturday. Participants got to know diverse edible tree species, the proper way of planting trees, besides, children as well as adult were offered workshops during this event about different water conservation and irrigation techniques.

If you are interested to learn more about the main water retention measures, click here.

Project Partners

Harmony of Culture Foundation from Poland

Zengő-Mozgó Egyesület from Hungary

Ranch Srbsko, s.r.o. from Czech Republic

The Society for the Sustainable Culture (STRUK) from Slovakia.

This project is supported by: Visegrad Fund

Water Retention Workshop: September 29 – October 3, 2019


  • Discussion on the connection between the water cycles and climate change; principles of and technical solution to water retention in landscapes and in small water cycles;
  • Calculation of rainwater runoff from land to design the most effective solutions to water retention;
  • Designing creative retention measures at the landscape level;
  • Check dams; Pond and Swale – how to do them; topography analysis; soil absorption capacities analysis; landscape preservation and design;
  • Surveying pond and marking out spillway and swale;
  • Building of a rainwater retention pond with spillway;
  • Constructing check dams;
  • Building of a swale;
  • Evening discussions, workshops and films.

About the main teacher: Michal Kravčík

Michal is an experienced Slovak water management engineer, hydrologist and environmentalist. He was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1999, for his contributions to the water management of the Torysa River. He also worked several years at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. He promotes ecological solutions for integrated river basin management and landscape restoration. Michal Kravčík had published numerous works, including “New Water Paradigm – Water for the Recovery of Climate” in 2007. He is a founding member and Chairman of an NGO called People and Water. For many many years he has been organizing summer courses on water retention in Slovakia. More information about his work: https://www.theflowpartnership.org/people-and-water

Water retention measures implemented during this project

+++++++ POLAND – Deep Roots +++++++

After having measured the water catchment area for the desired pond and connecting swale, we calculated a suitable pond size. The pond was to be digged below a wetland area at the bottom of a slopy area, which is situated just below a forested hill. Because the hill is filled with rocks, hardly any runoff occurs from this area, thus we deducted it from the catchment area.

A diversion swale (85m) was designed to catch all runoff from the above slopy area and gently move it towards the pond. The pond was created with a 9-tonne digger in two days only with the help of all participants during the water workshop. After 2 months, the pond is slowly filling up.

Pond created during the Water Resilience Workshop, after 2 months

Above the swale, the catchment area has been subsoiled on a keyline pattern. This is another water conservation technique that helps the slowing and better distribution of water runoff over land, improving soil moisture. Subsoiling also minimizes soil compaction issues and allows new seedling roots to proliferate to greater depths. Once this was done, and tree seedlings arrived, more than 100 people planted out 14 species of edible trees. Below is the design that was prepared for a water resilient edible forest landscape.

Here you can see how our autumn plantation day, filled with workshops and artistic shows for kids looked like.

++++++++ Czech Republic: Ranch Srbsko +++++++

Shortly after returning to the Czech Republic with knowledge from the water resilience course, two ponds and a swale were constructed at Ranch Srbsko. The designs are based on best practices as described in the course, including how to calculate the catchment area, how to size the water impoundment, how to use tools such as a laser level to ensure stability and safety of the final earthworks, and how to restore and regrow the landscape quickly and effectively. The first pond has a catchment area of ~7 hectares, and the second pond has a catchment area of ~ 2.5 hectares (see pictures and illustrations below).