ali chen battles california drought with grassroots cactivism
all visuals courtesy of ali chen




as california prepares itself for another year in drought conditions american and international professionals — of all sectors — continue their efforts to end the water crisis. online publication archinect recently held ‘dry futures’, a competition that casts architecture as a primary role in creating water-use infrastructure. the contest was split into two categories, speculative and pragmatic, the former of which was won by ali chen for her project, ‘grassroots cactivism’.

ali chen caliornia drought grassroots cactivism designboom
california cactus farm and wastewater purification plant 




current california legislation requires individual households to reduce water use by 25%. while it has helped, agricultural production — responsible for 80% of statewide water consumption — isn’t included within the restrictions. a major portion of the high amount goes directly towards crops that feed livestock, which in itself is another massive weight on domestic water supplies.

the farm with also function as an eco-resort




chen’s proposal reframes the situation to reach beyond the individual, and focuses on creating a higher level of organization and direction moving forward. ‘grassroots cactivism’ utilizes the nopales cactus, a drought tolerant plant that’s fit for both human and animal consumption, and remarkably, is able to effectively clean polluted water. of the plant, the cacti mucilage — or inner pulp — can be adapted to improve and revolutionize existing wastewater management systems.

ali chen caliornia drought grassroots cactivism designboom
water purification pools 




that’s not to say the rest of the plant won’t serve a purpose. the total crop with be further subdivided into two other portions; one for harvesting and distribution for human consumption, and the other for hand-processing into fodder for U.S. exporting. the hybrid farm also aims to function as an eco-resort. various activities such as cooking workshops, fine dining, a water museum, and other holiday amenities are included. this secondary function allows for cactus to be marketed as a staple of contemporary life and cuisine, raise water use awareness, provide funding for research, and increase demand for a crop that could potentially replace other water intense forms of vegetation and fodder. 

ali chen battles california drought with grassroots cactivism
‘grassroots cactivism’ program descriptions

ali chen caliornia drought grassroots cactivism designboom
program map



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: nick brink | designboom