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ENJOY | The Green Life

Nukeable Nutrition | SNL's Rachel Dratch | A Forest in a Box

The irrigation device that would green the world

By Mimi Dwyer

Photo courtesy of AquaPro

At first glance, the Groasis Waterboxx looks like a simple bucket. But it does something astounding: It grows trees in the desert.

The evaporation-proof irrigation device, which Popular Science named as its 2010 Innovation of the Year, protects and waters trees during their first year of growth. This allows their primary root to take hold in landscapes that have been dry for decades or even centuries.

During experiments in the Sahara, trees in Waterboxxes had a 90 percent survival rate. Almost all the trees without the boxes died.

Users fill the four-gallon boxes just once, and their tree is set for the year. The box is designed to create and contain condensation, which keeps the water from evaporating. A wick at the bottom drips about two ounces of water into the sapling's roots daily. And while the initial investment is a bit steep ($275 for 10 boxes), the device is reusable and has a life span of about 10 years.

Inventor Pieter Hoff hopes his Waterboxx will help to reforest vast tracts of land worldwide. "Half the world's deserts were created by man," he said, "so why can't we change them back to forest?"

Hoff believes his invention might be a significant step toward growing new woodlands, as long as users are adequately educated. For example, he said, it's imperative that people plant native species; otherwise, they'll create forests ill suited to the landscape. They run the risk of creating something that looks green "but is really still a desert," Hoff said.

But if they sow the right seeds, Waterboxx users could help resurrect forests in disparate ecosystems: yucca in California's fire-ravaged Pipes Canyon, acacias in the savanna of Kenya, and cork oaks in arid Spain—anywhere with room for a few gallons of water and a bucket.

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