Even though World Water Day is behind us, many researchers are looking to our forebears for inspiration to deal with ever present challenges. At the third Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in Ancient Civilizations (WWTAC) held last week in Turkey, attendees from Libya to Australia and Israel revealed technologies used by their respective ancestors that were in many cases far more sustainable than our modern interventions. Case in point: a 56 km 2,800 year old earthen water well from Eastern Anatolia that still works today!
Ancient water works
Today’s Zaman explained that throughout the three day event held at the Barcelo Eresin Hotel in Istanbul, leading academics discussed an enormous variety of water technologies employed by ancient civilizations, including the Hittite Ponds of Hattusa, the Nomad Cisterns in Antalya, to the Ancient Greek method of water conservation.
Professor Unal Oziş told attendees of his “Water Works of Four Millennia in Turkey” discussion that water systems built three millennia ago, such as the Şamran Canal basically made out of clay, continue to be used today. By contrast, modern people replace their technologies every few years and we have built our programs with obsolescence in mind.
Cradle to Cradle and other design philosophies – and conferences such as WWTAC – will hopefully compel us to revisit more sustainable approaches to water management such as those practiced by the Berbers in Morocco, but another key concern for water specialists is the rate at which modern society depletes water supplies.
“To think that an earthen canal is still in use after 2,800 years is a miracle,” Oziş told the paper, adding that “our ancestors could live with very little water, whereas we are of course monsters in this regards.
Knowledge is survival
Water scarce Gulf states now rely on costly desalination plants to provide fresh water to their people, but in the United Arab Emirates ancient flag underground water channels would divert water from distant sources to villages where it was needed. It’s a tried and tested method which helps conserve water and is still used around the world today in places such as the Sahara desert and Oman.
So what keeps us from employing these techniques if they are so good?
Professor Larry Mays of Arizona State University told the paper that a fundamental barrier to learning about these ancient techniques and implement parts into the contemporary context is lack of information.
“There is a lot to learn from these ancient societies,” he said, “but unfortunately when there is a lack of access to knowledge of these legacies, we can end up missing out.”
Image credit: Dead Sea Israel, Shutterstock
More on Water Management in the Middle East and North Africa:
Morocco’s Berbers had Water Management Sorted
Aflag: Ancient Channels Keep Water Flowing in the Desert
UN Sponsors Global Wet T-Shirt Contest