[permaculture] [Fwd: Re: BD Now! humanure] water hyacinths revisited
cricket at savingourseed.org
Thu Feb 3 10:02:20 EST 2005
I believe it was in Detroit in the late '80's where zebra muscles clogged a
6 foot sewer pipe and pure clean water slowly dripped out the other side.
Though they did an excellent job cleaning the water, their pace was not
quick enough for the taste of city officials. It seems to me that as they
are already introduced, and if they can be used in a controlled way, they
may be able to be useful in this type of venture.
The Save Our Seed Project Coordinator
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
49 Circle D Dr.
Colbert, GA 30628
home/work: (706) 788-0017
fax: (706) 788-0071
cell: (706) 614-1451
email: cricket at savingourseed.org
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Lawrence F.
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 5:48 AM
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [permaculture] [Fwd: Re: BD Now! humanure] water hyacinths
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: BD Now! humanure
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2005 00:08:29 -0500
From: Dylan Ford <dford at suffolk.lib.ny.us>
Reply-To: Biodynamic Food and Farming Discussion <bdnow at envirolink.org>
To: Biodynamic Food and Farming Discussion <bdnow at envirolink.org>
Seems to me I heard thirty or more years ago that the Mayans had figured out
a partial solution to the human waste problem in a densely populated region.
The story was (to the best of my recollection) that they cut a grid of
canals into a swamp. The human waste was tossed into the canals which had
been seeded with chunks of water hyacinth. Water hyacinth is a voracious
feeder and spreads in waterways like - well - like kudzu does on land. It
also has the ability to detoxify sewage of human viruses and (though it may
not have been important to the Mayans) heavy metals and industrial chemical
The Mayans would then regularly harvest the water hyacinths, pile them onto
the raised squares created when they dredged out the grid of canals, allow
it to compost a while and then plant it to the three sisters - beans, corn
and squash. They reaped an additional advantage in that the canals became
home to frogs, turtles, fish, etc which helped reduce insect populations and
provided an additional protein source where protein was at a premium.
Sir Albert Howard also wrote of Water Hyacinths (in asian rice paddies)
potential to provide fodder and fiber and humus. And now I see there is
discussion of its compost having great potential as a source of methane.
Looking on the internet I see that NASA is taking credit for the use of
water hyacinths as sewage reclaimer and detoxifier, and it is now being used
for this purpose in many countries throughout the tropics and sub-tropics,
where hyacinths unharvested are a terrible problem - much like Kudzu is
supposed to be where its value is ignored.
I have visited open man-made water hyacinth sewage lagoons (man-made
in man-made lagoons) in Trinidad, the banks of which were crowded with bird
watchers, and even saw a little four or five foot caiman in one. And I have
heard that all the plantings at Disney's Epcot center are now fertilized
with composted water hyacinths, grown in humongous open lagoons of human
Here on Long Island there was a scientist at (I believe) the Brookhaven
Laboratory who (again, thirty years ago) created a small scale demonstration
model of a wild salt marsh on a shallow incline. Salt marshes host a great
variety of life forms and a vast amount of biological activity is taking
place at all times, which means nutrients are in terrific demand. The
scientist would dump raw human sewage slurry in at the upper end of the
incline, it would gravity feed through the marsh, and he would fill a
tumbler with the water that drained out at the lower end and drink it.
All of which is to say that without using human manure to grow human food
crops, the means for safely reclaiming the nutrients and perhaps using them
for permaculture tree plantings or on fallow land, etc., or anything several
times removed from row crops is at hand (or, as Hugh wrote, for reclaiming
desert), would we only choose to invest more treasure in such low
tech-natural solutions rather than chemical treatment and burial at sea or
to wage idiot foreign wars.
And we could keep the manure out of wild waterways, and perhaps have a
motive to create marshlands rather than destroy them. It is late, and I hope
I am not writing this so sloppily as to obscure the meaning. dylan
Dylan Ford is the author of the proposal at www.ideaforpresident.com , a
website devoted to an idea that could provide an avenue to address pollution
issues, food safety, social justice, prison reform and healthcare.
permaculture mailing list
permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
More information about the permaculture