How Chicago Dug Its Way To Manage Urban Flooding

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We already know about Tokyo's engineering marvel of a massive, sophisticated underground sewer system that channels floodwater that help protect Tokyo from flooding. Now, we turn to Chicago and how they managed to do something almost similar with the Deep Tunnel.


Though it would have seemed insane in 1980 (or 1880), people do fish in the Chicago River today, and the number of species to be found here has multiplied tenfold in the past four decades.

That’s because Chicago built a second river, an infernal reflection of the first, tracing its course hundreds of feet below ground. On rainy days, this subterranean passage, a conduit that can hold more than 1 billion gallons of wastewater, welcomes a roaring torrent of shit, piss, and oily runoff from the downtown streets.

This is the Deep Tunnel, formally the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, and it may be the world’s most ambitious and expensive effort to manage urban flooding and water pollution. It is a project, in the visionary tradition of Chicago engineering, to bottle rainstorms.

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