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Superbarrels to Save the City

Collecting an reusing rainwater is one way cities can deal with diminishing freshwater supplies. The more people can collect, the better. And people can collect more water if they have bigger containers.
August 1, 2009, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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The superbarrel was conceived by John Chang, a water engineer in Chicago who saw empty chemical shipping containers and wondered whether they could be reused in an urban setting. So he got in touch with Steve Wise, director of the natural resources program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

"Wise's experiment is a simple test of an old adage: size matters. It also represents something of a challenge to a key premise of grassroots environmentalism. Small eco-conscious gestures, we are often told, add up to a big help for the planet. Following that advice, municipal governments, water districts and utilities across the country have offered customers subsidies for buying rain barrels, in hopes of relieving pressures on urban water supplies and sending less polluted runoff into waterways.

Yet the standard household rain barrel holds only 55 gallons-perhaps enough to water the flowers but not enough, even collectively, to make a big dent in urban water problems. By contrast, the superbarrel holds up to 330 gallons. Its colossal dimensions (40 by 50 by 54 inches) carry the potential to change the dimensions of water policy, too."

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Published on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 in Governing
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