problem solving

Big Water and Grass – Africa

with 14 comments

Allen Patten H.B.M.T.
Dec. 03 2007

We may want to consider the possibility that converting savanna grass lands to desert over the past 6,000 years of agricultural empire building is responsible for climate change effects rather than the reverse view that climate change causes deserts. The cause of desert is disappearing grasslands and the cure for desertification is reappearing grasslands. Grass is at the bottom of the food chain, restoring grassland then, restores the entire eco system including mountain rains and drainage basins; wild life, herds, trees, people; the lot.

Biosolids and grass.
UN water report. pdf

Five problems one solution.

Global warming or cooling

Biosolid disposal

Uranium contamination

Food production


Case example: North African Sahara and North American, Russian and European sewer treatment industry. Similar cases: China: dumps 18 billion metric tons of raw sewage in rivers each year.

And in India: “New Delhi alone produces 3.6 million liters of sewage every day but, due to poor management less than half is effectively treated. The remaining untreated waste is dumped into the Yamuna river.”

African rivers, including the Niger River are choked with sewer.

The Sahara Desert is the largest unused biosolid processing resource on earth; able to process all of the worlds biosolids without need of a single, nature mimicking, billion dollar construction project for waste treatment in any municipality any where else on earth. The Saharan capacity, about 5 million square miles, for storing soil nutrients is foreseeably not limited and the restoration of former Savanna by various groups in several Saharan, as well as other countries, have thus far made only small gains and losses in what appears for them to be an intractable problem. Many restoration programs focus on tree and shrub planting (“green walls”) for mitigation without first stabilizing soil, and by stabilization trapping enough water to support trees. Africa is currently planning another costly “great wall of fire wood.” Grasslands; are the missing ingredient in these plans and biosolids the missing, moisture trapping ( condenser water, ) grass nutrient. ( See drought myth )


Kick starting nature

Carbon cycle processes involve sunshine, photosynthesis, respiration, decomposition, combustion of fossil fuels and weathering of geologic limestone. Plants harvest sunshine to fix the carbon of carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as a by product of respiration; our usual source of oxygen. We in turn exhale carbon dioxide in a essential symbiotic relationship with plants. Grasses and in particular African grasses are ideally suited to desert reclamation as they have evolved to survive climatic extremes that deserts present while at the same time are adaptable to nearly every know environment. The structural and adaptable qualities of grasses make them ideally suited to biosolid processing as grass will rapidly take hold in nutrient rich moist soils as well as any other. Understanding grass lands.( very informative)

“Reported from the Hindustani Center of Diversity, Bermuda-grass or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate alkali, disease, drought, frost, grazing, herbicide, high pH, heavy metal, heavy soil, insects, laterite, low pH, nematodes, peat, poor soil, salt, sand, sewage and sludge, slope, smog, SO2, ultraviolet, virus, water-logging and weeds (Duke, 1978).”

Grasses are simple opportunistic organisms that make the very best of any environment they find themselves in. Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. in fact is almost impossible to remove once established and recovers from fire, grazing and drought quickly. Sometimes called Bermuda grass, Common star-grass, Barama grass, Dhubgrass, Devil grass, it is an excellent grazing crop. Decomposition of grasses make fertile soil for farming and Cynodon dactylon has a high biomass yield. Cynodon dactylon roots, two to four feet deep, spread quickly and thus will withstand any amount of wind unlike trees. Grass plantings can cover, at lower cost than other plants, much larger areas of land and be completely established within a year and continue to spread for many generations without additional investment or care. Every ecological zone in Africa has a grass specialized to grow in it. African grasses.

Lost Crops in Africa

“There is an overlooked food resource in sub-Saharan Africa that has vast potential: native food plants. All in all, Africa has more than 2,000 native grains and fruits–“lost” species due for rediscovery and exploitation. This volume focuses on native cereals, …” Also from this volume, “”Rows of vetiver planted across wadis may also make excellent water-harvesting barriers. Once planted, the barriers would be essentially permanent. The deep-rooted grass is likely to find enough soil moisture to survive even the driest seasons in most arable locations. Although the upper foliage may die back, the stiff, strong lower stalks that block the sand, soil, and water will remain. These are so coarse that not, even goats will graze them to the ground.”

Plants, insects and farmers know what to do with biosolids and nomadic herding tribes know what to do with savanna. Toubou

Decomposition: Decomposers are microorganisms that live in soil and water, and which feed on the rotting remains of plants and animals. Decomposers consume both waste products and dead matter, during which they also return some carbon dioxide to plants. Decomposers and grasses are the reason no one needs hundreds of multi million to billion dollar waste treatment pants, attempting to mimic nature in their little town. Nature doesn’t ordinarily need “help” from industrial processes at any level, however “densification” of populations makes carbon conveyance industries presently unavoidable, and reversibly useful.

Soil bacteria, “Grass bacillus, Bacillus subtilis” will fix uranium ground contamination. Grass and soil will eliminate air born uranium contamination.

Strategic redeployment of biosolids to assist or restart natural savanna process of trapping soil and moisture, evaporation, rising moist air, cooler mountain rains and run off irrigation of savanna trees and thus evaporation cooling, carbon fixing along with oxygen production, is not anywhere near impossible. A global biosolid / savanna network is a feasible and desirable natural restart, nowhere near as ambitious, or mega-crazy as you are presently thinking such a plan would necessarily be. Nope, not logistically complex and not requiring any new technology; not even difficult. Biosolid application methods and design factors. About one acre of grass land for every truck load of sewer.

But first, a review of what we already know

Fresh water cycle. Where all fresh water comes from.

fresh water

Water Flows Down Hill.

Air Mountains

Tibesti Massif

Ahaggar Mountains

Plant respiration = evaporation cooling.

Evaporation cooling = moist southern air moving north.


Water flows down hill… in ancient river beds under the sand.

Big Picture



The strategic difference in this plan is: Rather than addressing expanding desertification unsuccessfully at the margins of the Sahara ( symptoms ) this plan calls for addressing the root cause of desertification: failure of the Air, Tibesti and Ahaggar fresh water function to be self sustaining due to soil depletion, savanna and forest loss, or more simply, insufficient grass land and ground nutrients to self sustain.
Tibesti Massif, Air and Ahaggar Mountains moisture levels can be elevated ( new fresh water ) by savanna deployment ( biosolids and grass ) on their western and south western slopes and surrounding desert. Algeria, Chad, Niger, Mali and Libya then are logical starting locations for “biosolid to grass land” deployment; all have oil revenue to deploy in a sustainable post oil future. Algeria has the needed infrastructure in place and others might need to develop better access to their western mountain slopes and deserts. Bringing back the Tibesti Massif and Ahaggar Mountains as continental fresh water condensers will eventually make other desert reclamation projects at the margins of the Sahara easier and slowly the gaps between the margins and central mountain grass lands can be closed.

Net strategic results: Moisture trapping; evaporation; evaporation cooling; rain irrigation; livestock grazing; oxygen production; air cleaning, carbon fixing; successful savanna, successful reforestation; disappearing sewage problem, disappearing uranium problem, and eventual new crop lands with self sustaining water cycle to name just a few.

“Impossible!” you say. I thought you might.
Reasons you give:
Conveyance Infrastructure
Project management
Simply too big

The World Health Organization does health management already. U.N. Biosolids Guidelines

Directory of soil experts in Africa. Biosolids and sand.


Oil companies send more than enough empty ( fuel burning ) super tankers back to the Middle East every day to load up on carbon polluting oil from sludge pumping pipelines that extend deeply into deserts around the world. Every sort of oil pipe is hollow and can convey sludge in at least two directions. Every tanker captain knows where Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis are. Conveyance is in already place and might suit competitive advantage making for energy contract acquiring companies.

Project Management

United Nation Division for Sustainable Development does this already, or that’s what they claim.


Most rich cities have built, are building or are planning to build and maintain “nature mimicking” sewer treatment plants at several ( 10 – 90 ) million dollars each. It only makes sense to employ existing conveyance systems to deliver waste sludge somewhere where it will be useful, at a tiny fraction of that cost. There are a few billion wasted waste dollars to play with. Unless, it makes sense to spend billions on “nature mimicking” treatment plants to do what nature does for free.
“In the developed world, for example, the United Kingdom must spend close to US$60 billion building waste water treatment plants over the next decade in order to meet new European water quality standards. This amounts to about $1,000 for every person in the country.” Hungary faces similar problems. One-fifth of the country’s population is not connected to a functioning sewer system. Hungary will need to invest about US$3.5 billion over the next two decades to connect all of its citizens to wastewater treatment plants.” Africa has plenty of sewage.
Who pays shipping? Carbon credit hungry oil companies send more than enough “empty” ( fuel burning ) super tankers back to the Middle East every day to load up on carbon polluting oil. Cheap, “high grade carbon credits” in the form of carbon fixing projects is just the thing oil company executives are looking for, as they are obliged by their share holders to increase profit. Saving money on cheaper carbon credits is the same thing as profit. As every one knows, moving sludge is their specialty.

Tanker cars on existing train tracks will also work.

Simply too big, would take forever

Nope. Canada, was transformed completely from “savanna” to farm land in a far more complex undertaking over a much larger area in 100 years. This much smaller project to bring desert mountains back on line as continental condensers / coolers, on the other hand, will only take fifty years at very most. If we don’t drag our feet less than thirty. My guess is, increased rain fall could be measurable in five years and any over flow water can eventually be, without investment, handled by existing dry river beds, that in turn recharge ground water ( elevated water table) in surrounding areas further improving prospects for shade trees and further expansion of grass lands.
The same strategy can be deployed anywhere a desert and mountain meet, or in any desert where savanna is desirable and desertification isn’t.

6000 years ago



Written by aedh

December 3, 2007 at 3:15 am

14 Responses

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  1. Interesting, your ambitious “big water” concept… tackling Desertification, Global warming, Biosolid disposal all at once in a “big engineering” massive enterprise, it’s bound to intrigue some visionaries and actors. However, returning the Sahara to a functioning hydrological cycle system seems implausible, requiring it to be sustained so artificially, given the global weather patterns of the last 10,000 years, which have turned the Sahara into the largest desert in the world. Can massive engineering overcome that in the long run? How compatible are biosolids (sewage sludge) with oil pipelines? This and a myriad of other questions arise, but I’d love to see the idea tried on a smaller sacle, e.g., in Saudi Arabia, which has the resources, sewage, oil and proximity of pipelines an desert…

    Walter Knausenberger

    January 21, 2008 at 7:38 am

  2. Good point Walter.

    There are no known technological barriers for the conveyance of sewer.

    By simply using available water at the condenser function base; deploying biosolids and grass and working toward the nearest savanna, this plan self sustains. Increasing grass land in this way will increase available water at the condenser. The opposite of current, and artificially sustained, practice.



    January 23, 2008 at 6:46 am

  3. Allen, I was delighted to discover your website. Your idea is brilliant! The technical difficulties would have to be sorted out, but I think there’s a great deal of merit in your design. I would start in Algeria, not Saudi Arabia as someone else suggested. The Ahaggar might be the better test site for getting started.

    Tuareg Culture and News

    January 27, 2008 at 3:07 am

  4. Right – Algeria, has resources etc.. can start tomorrow.
    Never the less, Mali and Niger are critical for success in this plan; closing the savanna gap on the southern condenser is critical to create a cooler low pressure cell for moist southern air to move into and thus bring more rain north.
    In all, it would be ideal to start in each country at the same time and meet in the middle.



    January 27, 2008 at 3:44 am

  5. […] Big Water Africa Tagged with: Sahara […]

  6. Is possible. More […]

    Global Cooling « HBMT

    February 9, 2008 at 6:03 am

  7. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!


    August 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

  8. Quite interesting. I’ll spend some time on your logistics. In the meantime, consider the dessication machine that has taken over Lake Chad, and is sucking out the water that should be replenishing the region. Typha australis by the megaton, much of which is fit for human consumption, the rest for ethanol or charcoal production, drying out rivers and lakes, and breeding mosquitoes and quelea. Consider also water hyacinth and water lettuce as sources of biosolid that could be used. Their clearance would solve many problems.

    Stephen Klaber

    October 28, 2008 at 2:31 pm

  9. Thanx Allen,
    I like this…. Will be passing along this site to friends and acquaintances… I am a proponent of sustainability and having nature do it the way it is intended… Why is it that we humans think we can outsmart or do better… or, the worst part… be totally lazy and try to hide the destruction that we put upon ourselves…?


    November 7, 2008 at 4:35 am

  10. Super article / Hope to come back again soon:D


    May 20, 2009 at 6:47 am

  11. Hi,

    thanks for the great quality of your blog, each time i come here, i’m amazed.

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    October 22, 2009 at 9:12 am

  12. Very interesting article.

    Steve Means

    November 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm

  13. Hiya, nice day.. Your article is extremely impressive. I never considered that it was feasible to accomplish something like that until after I looked over your post. You certainly gave a great perception on exactly how this whole process works. I will make sure to return for more advice. Thanks

    Skye Edell

    February 25, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  14. […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sahara Climate ChangeChad and Niger: Neighbours in crisisHunger in NigerHunger Closing Schools in Niger […]

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