‘A ton of talent’

The idea of the ‘Smart rain barrel’ arose five years ago during a creathon. Over the years, this idea has been further developed in subsequent student projects and has become the ‘Regentoren’: a network of smart rainwater buffers. Not only that solution has been developed over the years, but also handfuls of students who worked on it: ‘a ton of talent’. In this article we show the project, but especially what it generated in terms of activity among students and graduates.

From rain barrel to rain tower

During 20Creathon in 2016, ‘water stress’ was the central theme. The question was how to deal with future flooding in the city of Enschede. In order to tackle this, it is necessary that not only the municipality can store water, but that private individuals can too. One of the solutions devised was ‘the smart rain barrel’, which helps private individuals to do their part. During the further elaboration of that concept, it turned out that it is feasible to have this ton respond to weather forecasts. In the event of extreme rain, the buffer can empty itself (in the garden or into the sewer) and thus creates extra water storage. Linking these barrels together creates a network of smart rainwater buffers: ‘the Regentoren’. The operation of such a single buffer can be seen in the animation above, made by Thiemen Doppenberg. Jeroen Waterink, Creative Technology graduate, talks about it:

“Imagine that the buffer is connected to the water drain. The buffer itself checks the weather forecasts. If there is a shower, he makes a calculation: how large is the roof surface, how much water can he expect? Two hours in advance, he drains enough contents into the sewer and then he is ready to absorb the storm.”

From rain barrel to rain tower

In the following years, the concept was further refined and improved and a pre-pilot was carried out at seven project participants at home, followed this year by a pilot at 25 private individuals. The smart rainwater buffer in their garden has a volume of 250 litres. A second pilot focuses on industrial estates. It is being investigated whether large tanks of 20 to 35 thousand liters can be made suitable. This XXL variant will be installed and tested on the campus of the University of Twente. Imagine if this were to happen in several places: then residents and companies could help to collect millions of liters of rainwater by storing water at the place where the rain falls.

“It’s raining talent”

You can read a lot about the Regentoren online (see for example here , here and here ). The initiative for this was mainly taken by the Municipality of Enschede, the Vechtstromen Water Board and the University of Twente. However, much of the research and development work was done by students. To start with the aforementioned 20Creathon, but also afterwards: through approximately 25 graduation assignments, and through the hiring of students (both UT employment agency and on a project basis).

They investigated, among other things, the required technology, the operation of water storage, weather forecasts, the rain tower concept, the related community building, a required dashboard, a matching sensor network, DIY instructions for private individuals and the design of the storage facility. Apart from researching and executing pilots on the technology, such a concept also raises the question of how to organise, produce and market it. Students also have an important role in this.

Value of water

The Regentoren is a project that contributes to combating flooding, which also increases the involvement of residents and companies in the climate. It helps against drought and provides water storage, and saves drinking water. It also helps the water board to reduce clean rainwater to the purification, which is detrimental to the purification process. The owner of the buffer harvests rainwater, which is automatically refreshed by the storm and has all the information about his barrel on his phone.

And: such a social issue is therefore of value to students. They discover how they can contribute, and their idea actually gets a place in the city. Plus: the city keeps them. Such a project offers opportunities to use your talent, as part of your study or in addition. The 25 graduating students can have a say in this, and the five students who have actually delivered work on this project even more.