How Contour Maps are used in Permaculture

In this short article you will learn about Permaculture, as well as how Contour Lines can help in the interpretation of different landscapes.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is the integration of different resources in order to create sustainable systems. It is an approach to land design that imitates the sustainable and natural systems that create no waste. “It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development”.

What is a Contour Line, and Why is Contour Mapping Important in Permaculture?

Contour lines are lines that run along the elevated spaces within an area of land. The use of contour mapping allows for the visualization of earth on a 3D scale. Contour lines aid in the mapping of where things should be placed. In order to have a proper understanding of the layout of an area, as well as what the surface may be like, contour lines are often used.

What is a Permaculture Swale?

Swales are used to collect water, as well as slow down its flow in order to prevent erosion to certain parts of the land. Swales are built on the contours of landscapes, dug lower than other ditches in the area in order to allow for the water to flow and collect into one area. Swales can also be used to move water across a landscape, as well as hydrating landscapes.

How do you Make a Contour Map?

Once you have chosen an area where you would like to create a contour map, click the “New Site” button in the bottom left hand corner.

Once the site has shown up, check to make sure the area that you would like to capture is within the white boundary. Then, click the blue “Okay” button.

Once this is done, a white site boundary will appear. The Data panel will also open, allowing you to pick the type of contour data that you would like to load onto the site.

Once you have chosen the contour data that you wish to load onto the site, click the blue button that appears once you hover over the data choice.


Once you have clicked the plus button, a screen with the option to customize the contours will appear. Here, you can choose between a Smooth, Detailed and Custom contour data upload. Smooth is the default due to its ability to generate smooth contours, and it will be used for this explanation. Click the “Generate” button to generate the contour data.

Once this is done, the progress will be shown in the upper hand corner. To view a more detailed version you can click on the button.

Once the data has been loaded, the contour lines will appear. In order to view and edit the contour mapping, click on the “Layers” panel.

Once here, you will  be able to view the layers that have been added to your project thus far. The contour mapping can be edited by double-clicking on the “Contours” sub-layer.

Here, you can edit the colour, thickness, and smoothing of the contour lines.

The “Labels” sub-menu can also be opened by clicking on the dropdown menu and checking in the box that reads “Enabled”.

To add a label, click the “Add Spot Label” button. You can then place the label anywhere within the boundary to mark important spots. To edit the name of the label, click on the “Property” square, and edit. The colour of the label can also be edited using the features listed further down in the menu.