Designed in the 1980s by five engineers trained in permaculture design, Crystal Waters Ecovillage originally called itself a permaculture village.

Thanks to the designers’ focus on hydrology, Crystal Waters stands out in this drought-prone region of northeastern Australia for its lush greenery and rain-fed lakes.

All homes and buildings include rainwater catchment and some, like this one, have green roofs.

Larger structures, like the Community Centre, recycle enough water to create a sizeable pond.

Homes vary greatly in size, cost, and design. During my visit, this beautiful earthen house was on the market for $600,000—about twice the local average.

Every detail of this domed house is a work of art.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Ronda and Tony Lee spent two years and less than $100,000 building their off-grid home.

The Lees' passive solar home, built with recycled materials and a lot of ingenuity, requires no heating.

Crystal Waters’ ban on outdoor predatory pets brings a wide variety of wildlife to its 500 acres of common land.

The Eco Centre, a small state-of-the-art conference hall owned by Ecological Solutions, sometimes serves as a community meeting space.

During my visit, many of Crystal Waters’ farmers and shop owners were leaving because they could not make a living. (see pp. 84-5)

The resident baker, who specializes in wood-fired sourdough bread, has managed to stay in business.

The baker’s son has learned the tricks of his father’s trade.

While Crystal Waters’ has no farmers, residents can patronize neighboring farmers and a host of other vendors at the Saturday Market. (Photo credit:

Children can play nearby as their parents shop at the Saturday Market or enjoy a cup of tea at the outdoor café.

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Crystal Waters

In 1984, when Crystal Waters Permaculture Village was founded in northeastern Australia, it was the world’s first permaculture village. Some 200 residents now live on 85 private one-acre lots, with another 500-some acres held in common as a wildlife sanctuary. As a consequence, kangaroos and wallabies are a common sight along the road.

In a region plagued by extreme drought, Crystal Waters stands out as a sparkling oasis whose intricate network of dams channels rainwater into thriving streams and lakes.

By rural Australian standards, the community is high-density; most homes deploy solar energy and rainwater catchment. Yet the nearest town is a 30-minute drive and the community itself is spread across five steep ridges, making Crystal Waters very much part of the dominant car culture.

Residents enjoy their own bakery, a community center, and a monthly country market.

Official website:

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