An Immersion of Beauty and Function When Water Meets Earth
How nature assembles itself around water sustainably
If the world’s water supply were only 100 liters (26 gallons), usable water supply/fresh water would be only about 0.003 liter (one-half teaspoon) — Water Facts — Worldwide Water Supply
Indeed water is rare and precious, especially for urban farms. While urban farms face many challenges, water remains one of the highest cost and main challenges. For a farm to flourish, water is essentially similar to sunlight; without which, you will only have a barren desert or a farm that is too costly to run.
Kebun Kebun Bangsar is an urban farm in Malaysia sitting on 2.5 acres of slightly elevated land. The wetlands of this farm have been carefully curated as the beating heart of the farm. They are vital in conserving the ecosystem and biodiversity of the farm. They have become a collaboration venture aesthetically designed by humans and nature together.
But beyond just a source for irrigation, these wetlands, and their water source have since become such a crucial habitat-refuge and nourishment reservoir for plants and animals.
This article will focus on three different features of how water is moored into the landscape of Kebun Kebun Bangsar.
Upper Circular Pond — An Oasis for Stopovers
In the article, An Urban Oasis Sustained By Nature for Nature, the hand-dug picturesque pond nestles in the upper corner of the farm serves as a pit stop/stepping stone to support the migration of wild species in the urban city.
If you ever drop by the pond, you will find the ground moist laced with the smell of wet earth. Your footprints sink a little as you navigate this watering refuge. Inside the water, plenty of tiny life submerges, seeking shelter in this lush green, self-sustained pond, while the dragonflies bask in haven on the floating pads.
While the pond may offer visitors an Instagram picture, the pond drips discretely to irrigate and provide nutrients to the vegetation around the landscape.
This pond extends itself as a shelter or a stopover to wild species while gradually morphed itself into a nourishment reservoir for its surroundings. This secluded habitat also supports the excess water and cleanses it naturally for the use of living organisms in the area.
Gravity Fed Fountains — Planting Beds
As you stroll along the 200m long raised walkway, you will hear the sound of flowing water as if you are trailing close to a river trickling in the distance.
Follow the scent of fresh basil or mint, and you will find hidden among these plots are floating green and burgundy herbs growing in clusters.
These concrete water beds of mint and basil are constructed as gravity-fed fountains; a water filter system for drain water/rainwater to support the irrigation of this unique urban farm. It uses zero power, pretty as a picture, and relies on gravity to pull the water.
The concrete troughs are filled with stone chippings as an anchor to support herbs and as surface area for bacteria to adhere. Over time this water catchment becomes a natural water filtration for the farm. Fortunately for the farm’s slope elevation, these gravity fountain works effortlessly funneling water similar to ancient Rome’s great aqueducts. They are low cost and require little maintenance.
The gravity fed fountains and their concrete troughs are scrubbing filters to clean the recycled road drain water as it trickles down the slope. Each filter is injected with and is home to millions of beneficial microbes working non stop to clean the water. Today, the water at the bottom of the hill is cleaner from those in our storage tanks up the hill. — Ng Sek San, KKB, Landscape Architect.
Thus, making it safe for irrigation and for animals to quench their thirst. On some days, it provides a delicious mint-scented water bath for the resident duck, Ulam.
Wetlands — Aquatic Life Sanctuary
Wetlands are natural rainwater buffers. They support overflow and are known as vital habitats for fishes, amphibians, dragonflies, and birds — examples of urban wetlands — riverbank, shallow lakes, natural and artificial ponds, or sewage treatment systems.
At the lower flat land of Kebun Kebun Bangsar, a human-constructed wetland looms as if they have long immersed into the terrain.
It is one of the busiest spots for both humans and animals. The crackles and horns from the geese and ducks fill the space with a market-like atmosphere. You will hear feisty splashes from the Tilapia fishes rushing to the edge of the pond at the sight of fish food.
This wetland was meticulously established to support floods or runoffs from the nearby animal huts. You will find self-sustaining water tables, instinctively settle on this part of the terrain. Today, it is a nutrient-rich reserve where water and soils mingle, creating hydric soil. (soil that’s permanently saturated with water) which nurtures aquatic plants to attracted pollinators.
It slows down the surface storm water from getting to the monsoon drains and manages the peak flow downstream which cause flooding. This wetland allows water to seep; recharge the ground water, gradually allowing water to flow into the drain. Thereby mitigating flooding naturally. — Ng Sek San, KKB, Landscape Architect.
The key attraction of this wetland; geese huts, fish pond, and the powdery thalia basins, has become a source for natural habitat and nourishment have for the farm to fertilize its vegetation.
These wetlands provide an environmentally friendly way to manage waste runoff from the ducks, geese, and chickens when they are hose down, forming part of the farm’s much-needed ecosystem.
Hand in hand with Mother Nature, this water channel becomes a blissful wildlife sanctuary, popular with children and even with the resident goose for its birthing pod to lay their ‘golden’ egg.
While these water landscapes started as human-made for the purpose of irrigation, today nature has influenced its shape and function by reconditioning is as a habitat, a hopping hub, a nutrient source, a planter, a containment bucket, and as an environmental recycle waste.
Water has sustained itself as the beating heart of this farm for humans, plants, animals, and its pollinators to exist en masse like a symphony orchestra.
‘Without water there’s no tune to play’ — Ivan Jacimovic.
Thank you for reading