Rancho Los Cerritos is a 4.7-acre historic site and museum in Long Beach. Built in 1844, the two-story Monterey-adobe style home and grounds illustrate the local history of various Spanish, Mexican and European cultures that have come through this area. In summer 2022, the Rancho broke ground on an advanced stormwater reclamation system that will capture, store and reuse rainfall on site. Studio One Eleven’s project to developing this new stormwater system should help minimize water waste and demonstrate ways California and other drying climates can adapt to climate change-related droughts or alternating dry and wet periods of weather.

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An aerial view of people digging a ground with machinery

The new Ranch Los Cerritos stormwater system also includes an extensive public education program called “Looking Back to Advance Forward.” It combines new technology with nature-based solutions developed by the Tongva people over 5,000 years ago. With this innovative hybrid system, the Rancho will capture and reuse almost 100% of rainfall, which should dramatically decrease its water use and prevent runoff and pollutants from reaching the Dominguez Gap Wetlands, the Los Angeles River and the ocean.

Related: Meet Dos Rios Ranch, California’s newest state park

A pavilion with a strip of pond

Why make a fuss about a stormwater management system? Because it’s one of a kind. Rancho Los Cerritos is the first stormwater improvement project in the U.S. on a local, state and nationally registered historic site to employ such an extensive system. The water capture system prioritizes minimal disturbance of the surrounding site and uses intentional materials to serve as a type of garden for the public.

An aerial view of construction on a pavilion for stormwater management

The Rancho water management system employs two methods for capturing, storing and treating stormwater. The first uses technology to recapture and store stormwater through water-permeable paving bricks at the top of the site, which drain down to an underground 22,000-gallon cistern. Stormwater captured at the cistern is filtered and treated, then providing irrigation to the historic gardens on site.

Rancho’s system is large for its site because they wanted to experiment here with scaling and duplicating a system to adapt to other locations around the U.S. Rancho. It is located at an elevated site at the top of Bixby Knolls neighborhood, which allows for a gravity system to channel rainwater into a natural arroyo aimed toward the lowest point of the property. Water channeled to the arroyo is treated via biofiltration, making use of plants to help keep a natural balance to the water supply.

A rectangular pond within a pavilion

A parking lot that adjoins the Long Beach roadway will add additional “bioswales,” or a natural waterway that removes pollutants. The parking lot system captures an additional 140,000 cubic feet of runoff annually, increasing stormwater capture from 40% to 95% annually. This prevents runoff from reaching the Dominguez Gap Wetlands and the Los Angeles River, both less than a quarter-mile away.

The goal here is to combine a traditional native method of channeling water into natural waterways with modern technology to store and reuse it, thus making the land and the people more resilient to climate change.

+ Studio One Eleven

Images via Studio One Eleven