Phase Scope: 7th Generation Design completed a remote Property Purchase Assessment for the prospective buyers of an 84-acre property in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara, CA. The clients had goals of finding a property that they could:
contribute to the restoration of and leverage as a way to positively impact the greater ecology of the area,
develop into a beautiful setting to permanently relocate to in 5-10 years, and
generate land-based income streams on.
The Property Purchase Assessment detailed all of the cadastral, topographic, climatic, soil, legal, and historical information for the property available online and identified any obstructions that may exist to the prospective buyers achieving their goals on the property.
Phase Results: The following predominant land and climate features were identified in the assessment:
An almost-entire primary ridge, with natural drainages along each longitudinal side and its toe
Temperatures with typical highs between 60-80℉ and lows that only very rarely drop below freezing, with an average of 300-500 chilling hours (<45℉) per year.
Average rainfall of 17.7 inches per year, with approximately 40.44 million gallons of water landing on the property per average rain year.
High solar exposure, with an average solar insolation level of 6.1 kWh/m 2 /day
Monthly average winds that range from 5 to 8 mph, blowing predominantly from the southwest during the spring and summer and from the northeast during the fall and winter.
Clay and clay-loam soils with moderate to high fragility, low to moderate permeability, moderate to rapid runoff potential, and 30-50” effective rooting depth.
The property had immense potential for the prospective buyer’s goals to be realized, however the following issues posed significant ongoing challenges to meeting their goals unless rectified:
High irrigation requirements of existing food production systems (tens of millions of gallons per year) as a result of climate-inappropriate species selection and lack of perennial vegetative cover within the orchard plantings (which contributed to decreased water storage capacity, high soil temperatures, and high evaporation rates).
Active severe erosion from the estimated 11-20 million gallons (20-50%) of rainfall landing within property boundaries that was being lost as runoff during every average rain year was evident from the satellite imagery.
Large monocrop production lacking the other layers that would be found in a healthy, balanced ecosystem which resulted in increased susceptibility to disease and other increasingly-extreme environmental conditions.
Phase Scope: The client ultimately purchased the property after reviewing the Property Purchase Assessment results, at which point 7th Generation Design began an on-the-ground Level 1 Site Assessment. The Site Assessment detailed the existing conditions for water, access, shelter, living system, energy, and economy design focus layers (DFLs) and provided high-leverage recommendations for increasing the function, health, and profitability of the property.
Phase Results: 7th Generation Design utilized a drone to develop a high-resolution orthographic image upon which key existing features could be highlighted, and then produced several maps illustrating information gathered during the site visit, including:
basemap of existing conditions, including parcel/area of interest outline and key water, access, shelter, boundary, and energy elements
existing key land uses (residential, agricultural, forestry, drainage, etc)
existing predominant plant communities – helps glean insight about soil conditions, more context-appropriate analogues to consider, etc
sector map – external energies passing through the site to either be block, deflected, or allowed to pass by unaltered), helps identify where to place shade, wind break, privacy screen, and other elements.
existing zones of use – frequency of interaction in different areas
Erosion was assessed throughout the property, and was most severe on the northeastern-facing portion of the main ridge where there were two 6-10′ deep erosion gullies, each extending hundreds of feet. These had formed where run-off that developed during rain events on the relatively barren and compacted soils of large catchment areas was funneled by the access roads, concentrated, and drained at high volumetric flow rates at low points on the landscape.
The Site Assessment affirmed the original considerations from the Property Purchase Assessment and clarified the following two high-leverage recommendations:
Installation of site-wide passive water harvesting and drainage system to spread the estimated 11-20 million gallons of annual water runoff out along the drier ridges and infiltrated into the soils for the hydration of downslope plantings and mitigation of erosion.
Establishing cover over all bare soils by layering in the missing layers of a functional forest ecosystem within existing orchards to be kept in production in order to provide fertility where it is needed, protect soils from the sun and direct raindrop impact, increase habitat for beneficial insects and create a more diverse and resilient soil life community.
Phase Scope: Upon completion of the Property Purchase Assessment and Level 1 Site Assessment, a whole-site design was developed. The whole-site design identified which key water, access, shelter, living system, energy, and economy elements would be required for the landowners’ vision, and mapped out their locations on the landscape. Reporting included an introduction to and description of each element and outlined reasons for inclusion and synergies with other proposed elements.
Phase Results: The key elements in the whole-site design include:
A site-wide passive water harvesting and drainage system that will intercept an average of 5.1 – 10.3 million gallons of water every year that is eroding the valleys and being lost from the property as runoff, spread it out to the drier ridges, and infiltrate it into the soil for the benefit of downslope plantings and groundwater levels. This system, which will significantly reduce the costly supplemental irrigation requirements on the property in the long term, has the following features:
36 passive water-harvesting swales with a combined length of 1.75 miles and a combined bank-full volume of 159,000 gallons.
7 passive water-harvesting infiltration basins with a combined surface area of 3,174 square feet and a combined bank-full volume of 36,000 gallons.
24 road-draining “rolling dips”, 29 geologically-armored spillways and drains, 17 biologically-armored spillways and drains, 13 geologically-armored energy- dissipating pools, and 8 geologically-armored flow-spreading structures for non-erosively draining overflow water into, between, and from water harvesting features.
Shelter elements that include farm manager and worker residences, a ranch headquarters with an office, equipment barn, packing shed, greenhouse and shadehouse, and a horse barn, with proposed drainage elements from the roofs and hardscapes into the elements of the recommended passive water harvesting and drainage system.
Soil fertility-boosting recommendations that include cover-cropping in the understory of the orchards, livestock integration, and farm-scale nutrient cycling systems like flow-through vermicomposters. Proper installation and management of these elements will also contribute to greater water holding capacity in the soils.
Food production system recommendations that include the consolidation of avocado plantings and addition of understory support species, replacement of the lemon orchards with dryland silvopastures, a food forest around the Main Residence, wind breaks, and riparian buffers, all of which will further increase the water retention and holding capacity on the property and reduce the input and maintenance costs.
Battery banks for load-shifting and backup.
Potential enterprises utilizing products of the above-listed design elements.
Level 3 Implementation-Ready Design
Water Harvesting and Drainage System
Phase Scope: Upon presentation of the critical nature of the soil dehydration, degradation, and erosion issues identified during the Level 1 Site Assessment, 7th Generation Design began development of a Level 3 Implementation-Ready Design for the site-wide passive water harvesting and drainage system recommended to provide mitigation.
Phase Results: The developed site-wide passive water harvesting and drainage system will infiltrate an average of 5.1-10.3 millions of water every year that was previously being lost as runoff, and has the following features:
36 passive water-harvesting swales with a combined length of 1.75 miles, a combined bank-full volume of 159,000 gallons, and an estimated combined infiltration rate of 22,000,000 gallons per hour.
7 passive water-harvesting infiltration basins with a combined surface area of 3,174 square feet, a combined bank-full volume of 36,000 gallons, and an estimated combined infiltration rate of 1,400,000 gallons per hour.
24 road-draining “rolling dips”, 5 road-draining berm penetrations, 29 geologically-armored spillways and drains, 17 biologically-armored spillways and drains, 13 geologically-armored energy-dissipating pools, and 8 geologically-armored flow-spreading structures for non-erosively draining overflow water into, between, and from water harvesting features.