The ‘big pipes in, big pipes out’ approach to urban water management was developed in the 19th century for a particular linear urban form. Large, sprawling car-dependent cities are pushing this approach to new limits in rich cities and it has never worked in poor cities. An alternative which uses new small-scale technology and is more community-based, is suggested for both rich and poor countries. The Sydney Olympics and a demonstration project in Java show that the approach can work.

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