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Project December 14, 2022

Chennai: New Ways to Water



The heavily polluted Cooum River sits across dozens of homes in the Sathyavani Muthu Nagar community. Residents said that runoff from the river often causes disease from an increased mosquito presence, Athlete's foot, and contamination of both tap and drinking water. Image by Sydney Shuler. India, 2022.

The land of abundance is running low on the source of life. Water is that colorless, odorless liquid that is the basis of the fluids of all living organisms. After the Day Zero phenomenon in June 2019, when the city of Chennai, India, ran dry, forcing residents to live with limited drinking water for up to three weeks, local architects and water experts are working to build the city its own self-sustaining water system.

Sydney Shuler traveled to Chennai to report on the “City of 1,000 Tanks” consortium that is building hundreds of small water collection and storage vats to treat and recycle community sewage and wastewater on a hyper-local level. Given that 40 states in the U.S. will experience a water shortage by next year, according to the Government Accountability Office, American researchers and environmental architects can apply some of the nature-based solutions that the consortium is applying to its own landscape.

This project emphasizes that effective systemic change is necessary to ensure that the land of abundance does not run out of the source of life.


yellow halftone illustration of an elephant


Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change