Hydrologically Sustainable Infrastructure

Translation of Place

Sean A. Gallagher

Program: Controlled Agricultural Environments
Site: Baja California Sur, Mexico

In the past decade, the loosening of international trade relations and advances in greenhouse materials and environmental control systems have fueled a dramatic increase in the fabrication and global deployment of Controlled Agricultural Environments (CAE). In fact, when these structures are viewed via satellite imagining - because of the immense areas of new coverage in previously unoccupied arid terrain -- these CAE's s appear as a new landscape territory altogether, now occupied predominately by tomatoes. The challenge here is to address the potential of (CAE) alongside the seemingly contradictory issues of the fragile existing ecosystems within the natural and built environment of the Western Cape of Baja Sur, Mexico. - Laurie Hawkinson

Engaged Discussion: {Sustainability, Documentation, + Place}

Historically the activity of culturing crops for human consumption has maintained an intimate relationship to the geological and climatic properties of the inhabited environment. The landscapes were augmented in response to the fruitful interplay of these environmental factors and the desired crop with the underlying principal of maintaining some balance for sustainability. This activity over many centuries has produced some of the most enduring expressions of past places. However, recent high-tech cultivation methods have shifted away from this fragile yet sometimes monumental augmentation of the environment to temporary blanketing the landscapes with temporary structures with the underlying intention of moving as the resources are depleted; similar in nature to that of the 20th century factory. Their compositions are neither sustainable nor communicative of the regional anxieties and enlightenments. Their resultant constructed interventions have become ignorant of place, and contribute not to the insightful documentation or sustainability of society. With this in mind, is there an opportunity for this industrial cultivation practice to diverge from its current trajectory in order to coexist within the environmental context and communicate enduring expressions surrounding the present evolution of inhabited landscape's society?

Background: {Regional Scenario / Societal Anxiety Study}

Select regions within Baja Sur expect to exhaust local fresh water supplies within the next 2 years. Larger metropolises have initiated alternative programs of desalinization plants and subsurface aquifer dams to meet current consumption demands. However, both technologies are expensive life cycle alternatives and are either overly energy consumptive or destructive to natural hydrologic flows. Furthermore, the current population growth rates of Baja Sur exceed that which will be sustainable through these alternative methods; especially in the less populated municipalities. A regional solution that utilizes the natural hydrologic flows and climatic constraints will be necessary to support civil means and expected growth patterns for 2025.

Examining closely the current natural hydrological flows and atmospheric constraints, the project intends to intervene within the landscape as a precipitation filter. The local geography of metamorphic rock creates poor absorption conditions and sheds yearly precipitation into the surrounding sea at intervals unsuitable for reservoir dams and aquifer recharge platforms. Due to this local condition, 45% of the yearly precipitation is lost to the sea via high velocity spillways and intermittent rivers and streams. This temporal resource loss has evolved a local ecology which strategically filters and stores water uniquely through shallow root structures. This place specific evolution is required of any potential hydrologic infrastructure that will attempt to sustain civilization beyond 2025. At the given site, an analysis of the ocean runoff's relationship to the local ecology and municipalities found that there is an opportunity to filter out 48% of the hydrology without damaging the existing life supporting hierarchies. However, the runoff only occurs during a 2 month rain cycle and the evapotranspiration rates during the remaining 10 months makes it extremely inefficient to store water in surface catchments. Thus, the final intervention will harvest yearly precipitation loss to sea through a shallow root structure which taps intermittent streams and rivers then stores the collected resource in a subsurface storage facility for sustainable consumption and distribution.

Site Selection Criteria: {Maximal Efficiency Potential}

Maximum Runoff Availability (harvesting) Minimal Travel Distance (distribution) Maximum elevation (crops/evapotranspiration) The chosen site sits 1.8 miles up the Candelaria Spillway at a point where 41% of Watershed C.2 is funneled. This is the largest quantity of water loss to the sea in the whole region and passes through a 300 ft. wide river bed at a high velocity. The site also straddles the municipal boundary line of Playa Magrina and La Candelaria. Due to the close proximity of these two small municipalities to Los Cabos, the expected population growth is exponentially rising with the passing of each year. Furthermore, La Candelaria hosts a regional farmer's community boarding school which has seen unexpected growth in enrollment. The two town centers are 6 miles apart and accessible from the site via car or bike. With an average renewable gallon quantity of 1,760,493,646, and utilizing innovative runoff filtration practices, this site has the potential to satisfy the fresh water demands of the two municipalities beyond 2025, agricultural practices, and emergency reservoirs while staying within the 48% bench mark. Methodolgy: {Strategic 'Place'ments and Dis'place'ments} The infrastructure intervention is designed to extract 48% of the surface hydrology from the Candelaria spillway and two intermittent streams. This quantity is within the ecological disturbance threshold and meets the projected demands of the local municipalities beyond 2025. The intervention utilizes the natural flow of the surface hydrology to channel the intermittent streams into the storage facility and interval pumps from the spillway containment tank. The subsurface storage capacity of the intervention is 375 million gallons of water which is used for both population and agriculture consumption. The spillway collection fins not only filter out the required percentage of water but also utilize the high velocity of the water to generate power. Furthermore, the shading canopy system for the subsurface dam is composed of thin solar sheets to sublimate the electrical demand of the facility and school. Traditional Open Field terracing techniques utilized the extracted dirt from the subsurface storage facility and then was placed strategically to contribute to the stabilization of the water channeling infrastructure. Sustainable Parasite-Host Relationship: {A Composition of Advantageous Superimpositions} The infrastructure intervention is conceptually two moves, earthwork and machine. The earthwork manipulates the landscape advantageously for the channeling and collection of runoff, working with the natural environmental forces of gravity and erosion. The carves into the landscape use as precedent the GPS satellite constellation traces, making one aware of the artificial cycles of our constant measurement and surveillance of earth and space. It is a didactic composition of intersections between the contextual flux of the changing landscape and routine surveillance of our new technological enlightenment. The machine becomes the vehicle by which resources are processed and distributed; whether it is water, crop, or education. It is placed within the subsurface storage excavation as to limit the disturbance of existing ecosystems, utilizing the manipulated space, while shading the water to further limit the evapotranspiration rates of the contained water. It is a strategy of maximized efficiency and forced overlap for the sustainable co-existence of a parasite-host model. The machine sits level with the top of the excavation, creating an artificial environment of recreational space for the two municipalities hung above the infrastructure which affords a sustainable future. This superimposition forces the community to passively interact with landart, infrastructure, and harvest methods in hopes of becoming a more aware population in the future. Phasing Schedule: {Strategic Harvesting, Treatment, Educate Infrastructure} Earthwork: {1 yr} Surface Hydrology Channeling Subsurface Dam Storage Hydroponic O.F. Terraces Infrastructure: {2.5 yrs.} Membrane BioReactor (WRF Irrigation) Filtration Bed+Tank (WTF Potable) Pump House / Water Tower Sustainable Region Center C.A.E. BioTech Facility Co-Municipal Recreational Space Soccer Field Solar Cell Canopy System Municipal Activities: {3.5 yrs.} 400 Seat Amphitheatre Public Pool 50 m. Lap Pool 100 m. Dash Track Soccer Field Rec./Stargazing Bleachers Solar Cell Canopy System Educational Facilities: { +4 yrs.} Boarding School Facility Public Rockclimbing Wall Administration Offices Staff Facility Interpretive Center (Tourism) Return to Top