Implementation Services

Implementation Services Organized By Design Layer

(click on any of the links below to jump to an expanded section on that element or subject)

  • Wheeled Access: Low-standard road retrofits (usually in concert with erosion control structures).
  • Foot Access: various types of foot access – hardscapes, softscapes, bioscapes.
  • Cob, slip straw, earthbag and pallet-framed structures.


Passive Water Harvesting Elements


We use the term earthworks to describe any part of a larger design implementation that involves moving significant amounts of earth or in some way altering surface water flows.

Earthworks are primarily installed to manage water’s interaction with the landscape in order to improve hydrological function. In drier, more brittle climates this typically entails shaping the landform to slow water down and lengthen its transit time through the landscape to maximize opportunities for infiltration.  Earthworks can also serve other functions like sound abatement, erosion mitigation, wind reduction, visual privacy and physical security.

There are many different types of earthwork installations that can be applied to serve a myriad of site-specific needs. Below are some of the more common earthwork structures we install.


Swales are level-bottom ditches that run along a contour line across a landscape. Swales slow water down, spread it out on contour and give it time to infiltrate into the soil. They are useful anti-erosion structures where there is significant sheet flow (uniform surface run-off) or concentrated sources of run-off (i.e. culverts, gutters, and hardscape shed points). Swales are primarily tree-establishment systems that will ultimately fill in over time as their function is taken over by a healthy belt of trees running across the landscape.

While not suitable to every landscape, swales are often very helpful in establishing tree belts and mitigating erosion while simultaneously providing a way for water to infiltrate into the soil (where it can be of great benefit) instead of running off the property.

Earthen Drains

Unlike swales, drains are ditches that run slightly off contour (usually 1-2% grade) across a landscape and sometimes road surfaces. The function of a drain is to move water (usually as slowly as possible in the case of earthen drains) across a landscape to an area where it can be infiltrated into the soil or put to use.  Drains need to be  carefully surveyed to ensure constant grade in order to function properly. Drains with substantial grade changes will soon become erosion gullies or sediment basins.

Drains are useful tools to link catchment areas with infiltration zones. Depending on soil types and grade they may need to be armored (geologically, biologically, or both) to prevent erosion and failure.

Infiltration Basins / Pocket Ponds

Infiltration and/or sediment basins are used to infiltrate seasonal concentrations of water, typically only present during larger precipitation events. Infiltration basins can range in size from small, backyard sunken rain gardens to football field or larger sized depressions graded to give extra water a place to collect, drop its sediment load if it has one, and infiltrate into the soil.

Infiltration basins are great for handling run-on from neighboring properties. In cases where there will be a known sediment load, deposition will occur, often yielding a source of nutrient rich material that can be dug out and re-used elsewhere in the landscape. Where sedimentation is known to occur we typically make the basins large enough to clean out with a tractor.

Keyline Subsoiling

Keyline subsoil ripping utilizes a specially-designed non-inversion sub-soil ripper to create pathways for air to enter and water to infiltrate otherwise compacted or hardpanned soils. 

What does that mean? The soil is aerated and water is allowed to infiltrate without destroying soil structure or killing all of the soil microbiota (as happens with discing or soil inversion) because the soil is not exposed to sunlight and the open atmosphere.

The ripping generally runs slightly off-contour, from valleys to ridges, to help evenly distribute water throughout the landscape.


Terraces are level or just off-level benches cut into hillsides to create flat ground where previously there was none.

Terraces are excellent for creating more usable land, improving access, improving soil production and retention and serve as backbones for some of the most productive growing systems the world round.

Terrace systems can be set up for orchards, food forests, market production, grazing animals and much more – terrace size and spacing is dependent upon the nature of the system being installed, the existing terrain and soil type, and system management requirements.


Ponds are excellent ways to impound large amounts of water for later use or infiltration. Having water in the landscape also provide a whole host of ecological benefits and additional habitat niches.

In high-evaporation, long-dry season climates like central California, storing water in open bodies like a pond is not always the best choice. However, by constructing ponds to maintain cooler water temperatures (deeper), reduce wind evaporation (planted windbreaks and edges) and shading them (south and west facing shade trees) we can create ponds that will hold water for longer in the landscape and are less susceptible to evaporative loss.

Spring Development

Springs are a fantastic water source if you are fortunate to have one on your property or share one with a neighbor. Often times springs provide the very best quality water you can obtain.

Spring development is very site specific as no two springs are exactly alike. At 7th Generation Design we tap into springs, or retrofit old spring water collection systems, with the goal of providing water for your needs and maintaining or improving the sensitive riparian habitats that typically surround springs. Often times a spring will provide the primary source of drinking water for wildlife for miles in any direction, and as such we design our spring water collection systems to provide accessible water for wildlife while still getting clean, cold water into a pipe for your needs.

Active Water Harvesting Elements

Storage Tanks, Stock Tanks & Distribution Plumbing

Water storage tanks, stock watering tanks and the distribution piping and plumbing are a part of most broad-acre and suburban designs. Getting water where it is needed in the landscape is critical for successful establishment of trees and plants and time-efficient livestock tending. 

Whenever possible we aim to create gravity-fed water supplies to provide buffers during power outages or emergencies. Distribution piping is designed with access patterning and eventual planned locations for living systems in mind to allow for future access and maintenance of water delivery infrastructure without disrupting or damaging other functioning or living elements.

Erosion Control Structures

We employ a wide range of time-tested structures and techniques for halting erosion damage and initiating natural rehydration processes. These techniques and structures are all low-tech and made with site-sourced or locally available materials in most cases. Generally, a prescription of numerous linked treatments is required to address long-standing erosion issues, with yearly monitoring and sequential additions over time as warranted by the goals and budget of the project.

Headcut Repair Structures

Zuni bowls are geologically armored plunge pools that stop the up-valley migration of head cuts. Head cuts are particularly damaging to a landscape because once they form they continue moving up-watershed (kind of like unzipping a zipper, except they move uphill!) causing ever-worsening damage with each rain event large enough to create flow in the drainage.

The most effective way to take the erosive energy out of moving water is with standing water. Zuni bowls create an armored pool into which quickly moving water can drop and safely dissipate its energy before being directed onto contour (swales) or continuing on its course, albeit with less energy. Over time, these structures can be allowed to fill in as the watershed repairs itself and healthy flow patterns are restored.

Flow Spreaders & Concentrators

Depending on where overland flow is located in the landscape, it can be advantageous to either disperse that flow or concentrate it.

One of the low-tech structures often chosen for this function is the media luna. Shaped like a crescent moon, its tips can either face downhill (“tips down”) or uphill (“tips up”). 

The arc of the crescent is set completely level so that any flow passes over the crescent at the same time. When “tips down” this concentrates flow, much like a drain pipe held just under the water’s surface – water will flow into the pipe evenly from both sides and be directed to the center. When “tips up” this spreads flow, much like filling a cup to overflowing – the water will overflow evenly around all sides of the cup, thus spreading the flow from the center.

Because tips down media lunas concentrate flow these structures are useful in halting upland erosion rills or runnels and for concentrating erosive upland flows before they reach the transport zone (steeper section of slow where interventions carry greater risk and cost). Tips up media lunas spread flow out and are placed below keypoints where the landform has transitioned from convex to concave and where spreading flows is once again desirable.

Grade Control Structures

Grade control structures are used to transition water over sudden drops in vertical height that, if left unattended, lead to incision, gully formation, and large-scale soil loss and landscape dehydration.

Two common grade control structures are log-drops and rock mulch rundowns.

Log-drops are generally utilized in areas without a lot of rock available on-site but that do have straight trees available for felling and limbing. They are essentially an armored step down ramp that allows the water flow to transition the grade change without further eroding the soils underneath and continuing up-valley.

Rock mulch run downs are composed of knitted stone and create an armored trough for water to run down where previously it was falling vertically over an edge, creating headcut erosion.

Aggradation Structures

Aggradation is a fancy term for raising the level of a gully bottom. This is generally undertaken to help with gully repair, enhance vegetation recruitment via sediment deposition and moisture retention, and to further slow and disperse erosive flows.

The most common structure we utilize for this function is the one-rock dam. A line of rocks one rock high (4-6”) and 6-10 rocks deep lain atop a keyed in splash apron in the bottom of a gully. This line of rocks backs up sediment and becomes an excellent location for new vegetation to establish, which further enhances roughness, slowing heavy flows and securing soil.

One-rock dams also help to secure the downstream edges of larger elements, like zuni bowls, log drops, and rock mulch rundowns by creating a still water pool / sediment drop zone just downstream of those structures, which further helps to dissipate erosive energy.

Irrigation Systems

7th Gen offers start-to-finish design, planning and installation of custom irrigation systems for your unique needs. We specialize in designing systems that offer maximum flexibility while also being very intelligent about water use. If you’re starting from a blank slate and don’t know where to begin, we can help you…

  • determine water tank placement on the landscape.
  • calculate water pressures at certain locations given specific system requirements.
  • map out piece-by-piece assembly diagrams if you want to DIY.
  • create cost tallies for different systems so you can choose the best option for your needs, budget and vision.
  • make sure your plan will work as desired (adequate pressures and flow rates for specific functions and needs etc).
  • assemble, install and learn how to operate your system to greatest effect for time and water savings.

Some of the enterprises and applications we have designed irrigation systems for include…

  • Mixed-Variety Home Orchards And Small-Scale Commercial Orchards
  • No-Till Market Gardens (overhead micro-sprinklers, drip)
  • Swale-Based Tree Systems 
  • Agroforestry Systems – Including Windbreaks And Shelterbelts
  • Farmstead-scale Tree And Plant Nurseries (intermittent mist and air pruning bed propagation systems)
  • Home Landscaping Irrigation Systems (drip, sprayers, sub-surface)
  • Biological Erosion Control Systems (vetiver grass)
  • Log-based Mushroom Production Systems (misters, sprinklers)
  • Off Grid Solar Powered Irrigation Timer + Manifold Assemblies
  • Completely Off-Grid Systems For Pumping From Creeks And Pressurizing Water


Depending on what is called for at a given site, we will either recommend a new patterning of access routes, or, more commonly, recommend specific retrofits when working with existing access infrastructure to decrease maintenance and enhance function. A fully developed understanding of how water is moving through the property and interacting with existing or proposed access routes is critical to implementing or retrofitting access that withstands the test of time.

There are two main categories of access, Wheeled Access and Foot Access.

For Wheeled Access we can help with:

  • New low-standard road patterning and implementation.
  • Low-standard road remodeling, typically in conjunction with drainage modifications to enhance road function while also halting any associated erosion damage and improving the surrounding hydrology.
  • Vehicle access within production areas, such as terraces and ridge roads.

For Foot Access we work with:

  • Natural hardscapes (flagstone, boulders, rock)
  • Softscapes (decomposed granite, mulch, gravels)
  • Bioscapes (living pathways planted with traffic-tolerant groundcovers).

Shelter & Structures

Building Methods

  • Cob (clay, sand and straw) for monolithic wall construction.
  • Slip straw (straw covered in clay slip) – good for infilling rigid structures like pallets or woven wattle walls.
  • Earthbag (local mineral soil, woven polyethylene bags, barbed wire) for walls, vaults and domes.
  • Pallet-framed structures.

Living Systems

Implementing living systems is where the rubber meets the road in creating a homestead and works for you while you sleep and appreciates in value over time. Once a solid mainframe design is in place (water patterning, access routes, shelters and structures) it is time to leverage the immense power of living systems to produce. This is the most fun and also the most challenging part of implementing integrated systems that do actually play well together because there are so many options. The living systems you choose to implement and make a part of your life will be a direct reflection of who you are and what is important to you. As such, it is worth investing the time, energy and resources to implement these systems right the first time – because they will be providing for you for years (maybe even generations) to come.

The 7th Generation Design team can help you implement a wide variety of living systems, that we have have either managed in the past or currently utilize in our own lives.

Nutrient Cycling

Production Systems

  • Annual Production Systems
  • Perennial Production Systems
    • Agroforestry systems
      • Forest Gardens: Climate- and region-specific perennial polycultures of multi-purpose trees and plants, arranged to mimic the 7+ layer structure of natural forests, consciously designed to produce the 7 F’s for humans (food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, “farmaceuticals” a.k.a. medicinals and fun).
      • Silvopasture: the intentional mixing of trees, animals and forage.
      • Multi-Species Orchards: retrofits of existing orchards to enhance species diversity and ecosystem function to decrease inputs and increase yields
      • Fuelwood / Biomass Plantings: Sequentially cut woodlots for home energy supply.

Plant & Tree Propagation Systems

Automated Mist Propagation Beds: used primarily to propagate from cuttings – a great piece of time and money-saving infrastructure for your homestead, especially if you’re looking to do a lot of planting of high-value perennial plants. These systems make it easy to generate thousands of your own plants from freely available cuttings. Also very useful in keeping seedling trays moist during germination and early growth stages.

Air Pruning Beds: used primarily to propagate trees or other woody perennials from seed. Air pruning beds leverage the science of air pruning to create highly-branched, fibrous root systems that help your trees and plants thrive when you plant them out. No circling or girdling roots as is so common with typical nursery stock grown in plastic pots, and no shorn roots as is typical with bare-root trees. You can grown thousands of trees and plants from seed in the footprint the size of a typical raised garden bed – a high leverage piece of infrastructure if you have lots of planting to do on your property.

Energy Systems

7th Generation Design can help you with custom, small-scale, off-grid energy systems design and implementation. All systems are built specifically to the unique specifications of your context. We specialize in 100% DC solar electric systems, which can save up to 30-50% the costs when compared to traditional solar system installs.

Energy Generation & Storage

Solar Photovoltaics: Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity from the sun’s rays. Solar panels can be an excellent grid-independent energy solution in climates with > 200 sunny days per year.

Micro Hydro: Micro Hydro systems leverage relatively small flows of moving water to generate electricity. Micro hydro systems can be an excellent addition to a resilient energy mix anywhere water flows consistently for the better part of the year.

Micro Wind: Small-scale wind turbines are suitable for certain sites that have wind resources adequate for the specific type of turbine under consideration. Learn more about assessing your wind resource.

Battery Banks: 7th Generation Design offers custom designed battery banks built to your site- and use-specific context. Systems can be fully DC or provide for a mix of AC and DC end use cases. Power your home appliances, lighting, appropriately sized air conditioning units, communication equipment, water pumps for domestic and agricultural use cases and more. Generator integration for power source redundancy.

Water Pumping

Mechanically Driven Pumps: Mechanically-driven pumps include pumps operated by human, animal, wind and water power. 

Hydraulically-Driven Pumps: Hydraulically-driven pumps use the power of moving water to pump water without any external power source.

Electrostatically-Driven Pumps: Electrically powered pumps are appropriate for situations when water cannot be pumped mechanically or hydraulically in a feasible manner, and can be run in a grid-tied or off-grid manner for additional redundancy and cost savings. 

  • Electric pumps (DC and AC)

See our curated playlist on Pumping Water Without Electricity