Technical infrastructures for water supply since antiquity have long been investigated by engineers, archaeologists, and historians, while hydraulic structures in rivers and brooks, in service before 1700, have hardly received any attention. The urgency for a better understanding of late medieval and early modern hydraulic activity in streams has recently arisen in Swiss flood research, which tapped into the copious serial inventories of municipal financial accounts. This contribution provides groundwork for further research. Based on sources from Fribourg (CH), Basel (CH), Regensburg (DE), and Wels (AT), the prevalent motives for the construction of contemporary stream works, their municipal management, and engineering techniques are investigated. The locally dispersed informations from sources and literature are integrated into a coherent overview of urban stream works in Central Europe for the period 1200–1700, including a typology according to hydraulic functions and physical structures. The results show that hydraulic construction in streams was led by principles of urban development, industry, and logistics, as well as protection against fluvial erosion and floods. The maintenance of stream works required large investments of financial, material, personnel, and organisational resources ranking among the highest expenses within municipal construction activity. Finally, the implication of anthropogenic stream interventions for pre-instrumental flood reconstruction is demonstrated with the example of Zurich (CH), and remaining desiderata within the field of research are stated.
The dynamic interaction between society and nature is influenced by the prevailing normative, cognitive, and regulative societal systems, which guide the relationships between society and nature or ecology. Therefore, mature cities with increasingly complex urban interactions must shift from the simple agenda of demand–supply to multi-criterion models that takes into account factors like impacts of climate change, variation in settlement patterns, human vulnerability, and resource optimization to balance the society–ecology relationship. However, rapidly growing megacities have failed to balance their development and associated societal goals. This paper presents an assessment of the paradigm shift in the relationship between people and water as a resource, or the hydro-social construct, along a temporal gradient from about ad 1206 to the present for an ancient Asian city, namely Delhi. The city struggles at present with many challenges, including demographic fluctuations, increasing geographic spread, economic restructuring, changes in land use and settlement patterns, and, most relevant here, the transition from a water-sensitive city to a water-scarce city. The study identifies the causes of shifts in the water–society relationships and areas of interventions, that takes into account the physical, economic, and social characteristics of the city’s water resource to ensure that water, a basic human need, must be accessible to all inhabitants of the city.
A significant number of written sources report on the development of ancient dry zone water harvesting and water management systems in Sri Lanka. This paper attempts to address the lack of a systematic assessment of the information given by sources on the spatial–temporal development of the system, using methods of source criticism. After the removal of double entries, 255 text passages containing 837 different records on ancient irrigation were compiled as a database for the period from the fifth century BCE to the tenth century CE. The majority of the 625 analyzed records were derived from inscriptions, 212 records originated from chronicles. Geocoding was successfully performed for 40 records. It was possible to link 173 text passages to a specific king’s reign. Altogether 362 records (43.2%) mention a tank or its construction. The categories “grants of irrigation” and “irrigation incomes” are represented with 276 records (33%) and 75 records (9%). Records on canals and irrigation management occur with a share of 8.2% and 6.2%, equaling 69 and 52 records. The spatial distribution of records in general largely corresponds to the extent of the Dry Zone and northern intermediate zone. With 490 records, Anuradhapura district shows the highest density of information on the ancient water harvesting and management system. The analyzed data are not equally distributed throughout the investigated period and show a distinct peak in the second century CE. In conclusion, the conducted analysis documents the potential of the analyzed source genres for the derivation of information on different aspects related to the spatial, temporal and administrative development of the ancient water management system in Sri Lanka.
From 1822 to 1858, a “perpetual power” system supplied continuous, uniform tidal power to Boston industries. A 2.4 km dam in the Charles River estuary and a shorter cross dam formed two basins. Industries drew water from a “full” basin that was replenished at high tide, passed it through breast wheels, and discharged it to a “receiving” basin that emptied at low tide. Unlike owners of conventional, intermittent tide mills, who sold services or products, the managers of this system sold energy to industrial customers, as modern utilities do. They created new opportunities for Boston’s inventors and artisans, and the roads built on their dams became important transportation links for the city. Yet the project also degraded the estuarine environment and generated complaints about pollution. When population growth and falling costs for steam power made the extensive basins and mill sites more valuable for urban development than for generating renewable energy, a novel earth-moving process filled the basins to form Boston’s prestigious Back Bay district. This little-known, unique tidal-power development overcame daunting technological challenges in a period when American civil engineering was in its infancy.
Two maps covering Bangalore and its environs published in 1945 mention a network of Karez in the northern parts of the present Bengaluru city. The word Karez refers to an underground water channel system of central Asian origin. This paper analyses the network of Karez marked on these maps spread across the topography of north Bangalore using geo-spatial data (satellite images), ground validation, historical records (maps, gazetteers, reports and books). It (1) identifies remnants and traces of this network, (2) analyses whether they were built based on the principles of Karez, (3) discusses circumstances when these were built, and finally (4) conjectures the reason for this network to be called as “karez” in these maps.
Beginning in 1910, new technologies for mining and processing low-grade iron ore created novel environmental challenges for Minnesota’s iron mining communities. Unlike earlier high-grade iron ore which required little processing before shipping, low-grade iron ore required extensive processing near mining sites, and that processing created vast quantities of finely-ground tailings that mobilized into nearby streams, lakes, and communities. In Lake Superior’s Mesabi Range, low-grade iron ores brought significant economic benefits, but they were coupled with equally significant environmental transformations. Drawing on archival records from the first legal case in Minnesota over the pollution of surface waters from migrating mine waste, this paper asks: how did communities in the Mesabi Range respond to the new environmental challenges from low-grade iron ore? How did these negotiations between Mesabi communities, mining companies and the state play out in the courts? How did these court battles shape state mining policy? How have local heritage organizations and state agencies remembered and memorialized these environmental legacies?
Tanks are technologies used to store water for irrigation in south India since ancient times. Scholars have been divided over the reasons for the decline of tanks. In the late eighteenth century, when the British colonial government took control of large parts of south India, tanks were in a decrepit state and unusable. Over two hundred years of colonial rule resulted in tanks diminishing in importance to agriculture, and many were replaced by canals and well irrigation. While some scholars have blamed ‘modern’ colonial policies of profit for the decline of tank systems, others have argued that tanks were neither managed perfectly nor egalitarian institutions during precolonial times. This article furthers this analysis and examines policies of tank maintenance in the specific context of an expanding nineteenth-century colonial economy, focused on producing ‘value’ and eliminating ‘waste’. The article shows how the colonial state, in the wake of a famine, undertook renewed efforts at maintaining tanks in the late nineteenth-century. However, tank maintenance intersected with expanding railways and large scale deforestation, which were cornerstones of the productive colonial economy. The article shows how tanks occupied an uncertain space within the ‘waste’ and ‘value’ dialectic, unsure of how maintenance policies and ecological changes produced them within these underlying conditions of the colonial economy.
Different types of drainage galleries exist in Span: mina de agua, qanat, cimbra or tajea and galleries associated with a groundwater dam (buried in the bed of the channel to stop sub-surface circulation). A qanat is a type of drainage gallery located in the foothills where groundwater is captured. Qanats, also called galerías con lumbreras, minados con espejuelos, viajes de agua, or alcavons in Spain, can be seen as models for sustainable use of water in arid and semi-arid environments. Furthermore, in their local contexts, these hydraulic systems create their own landscapes and hydraulic heritage. As such, the technique is the basis for new ways of thinking about how to generate water in dry environments like the Southeast of Spain. There are several groups of Spanish researchers studying qanats and other types of horizontal wells as systems being able to generate endogenous water resources. Because of their extensive and continuous research over a number of years, the teams from the Universities of Murcia and Valencia stand out.
This paper addresses the diffusion of agricultural and irrigation technologies into the steppe regions of the Middle East during the Early Islamic period (seventh to eleventh centuries CE), focusing on the study of the origin and distribution of qanats – unique man-made underground water transportation systems that spread across Eurasia. Several excavated Early Islamic farmsteads in the Arabah and Jordan Valleys present a case study for the spread of these systems into larger areas of the Middle East and beyond. The discussion targets the relationship between settlement processes and the introduction of qanats, either as an innovation, or as an intensification and expansion of an already existing technology. Based on the excavations at these sites and on comparative data from various regions in Eurasia I suggest that the massive expansion of qanats was associated with the new geo-political situation following the Arab conquest, which enhanced the diffusion of new agricultural and irrigation technologies.
Cholera first broke out in St. Petersburg in 1831, becoming a frequent visitor thereafter. Considering the frequency of its visit, it is worth trying to understand what the epidemic represented and became for residence of the capital. The complexity of water pipe and pollution control facilities in the city is one of the important components that story.
In 1852 a new machine to provide greater volumes of Seine River water to Versailles was decided. The new Marly Machine was operated by the Versailles Water Service (VWS), a 150-year old state-owned institution supervised by state ministries, managing the water supply over a vast domain that covered 32 towns in 1903. The VWS provided financial, technical and administrative resources to the city of Versailles, but the city council had no word in decision-making. Soon after the installation of the Machine in 1859, the city of Paris started to collect its wastewaters and discharge them untreated into the river, 16 km upstream of the Marly Machine. In 1874 the Seine River was officially declared infected by Paris sewers. The VWS reacted in 1877 by asking several French chemists, pioneers of river surveys, to assess the quality of the Versailles waters by innovative chemical approaches that had been developed on the Seine River since the Boudet ammonia river profile in 1861. In 1874 Gérardin’s oximetric profiles revealed the severe depletion of oxygen in the Seine at Marly in the summer, explaining the fish kills. This degradation of Versailles water intake in the Seine River mobilized local, regional and national actors over the coming 20 years. Finally, the VWS was forced to gradually use (1880–1895) groundwater to supply the Marly Machine. In 1892, another new water quality criterion was considered, the bacteriological survey, and in 1894 the Seine River water was completely excluded as a water source, ending a multidecadal debate in which scientific expertise played a prominent role.
The aim of the essay is to look at the water management in this amphibious city par excellence at the interaction of the “science of water” with different aspects. We have taken in consideration the importance of the river basins, of woodlands, of meteorology, of the measurement of rainfall, of the atmospheric pressure and humidity. Further Venice had long been growing aware of environmental issues such as air quality, public hygiene and the collection/disposal of waste products, regulations regarding burials, the location of harmful industries and measures intended to protect citizens. But the Republic that existed thanks to maritime trade had to look for the water supplies that were essential to its urban and demographical expansion. Indeed, as Marin Sanudo underlined “Venice is in the water but has no water”. Those measures hinged upon the collection of rainwater in “Venetian wells”, though that source of supply was soon being supplemented with fresh water drawn from the river Brenta. No less complex was the continual battle the city had to wage in order to defend itself against water—a struggle which had to be fought on different fronts. From one side it had been necessary to exclude the major rivers outside the Venetian basin. From the other it was crucial to maintain the canals within the city free from alluvial silt. No less important was to provide defence against the sea itself. An additional issue in this matter was that the energy crisis within the city led to wood (potential fuel) increasingly being replaced by stone (as was the case with the Murazzi sea barriers put up at the end of the 18th century).
This paper deals with the issue of water management on the island of Crete from the beginning of the Ottoman–Venetian war in 1645 to the beginning of its Egyptian administration in 1830. Based primarily on information given by Kandiye’s (mod. Herakleion) Shariah court records, but also on a variety of published and unpublished archival material from Turkey, Greece, and France, it explores the socioeconomic aspects of water-resource exploitation in the island’s urban centers, analyzes the involvement of various local and imperial actors in water management, and locates the struggles created in the above-mentioned processes. Through a detailed analysis of the challenges faced by the administration and the population of an insular area with limited water resources, such as Crete, the article tries to take a fresh look at water management on the Ottoman periphery: It redirects the researchers’ focus from heavily-populated cities and large cultivated plains to the examination of smaller regions with no major hydraulic and irrigation networks and puts emphasis on the symbolic use of water in the socioeconomic context of the Ottoman Empire.
This article examines the discourses on water pollution and protection in the Soviet Union in the 1950s–1960s. It explores discursive practices related to two paper and pulp plants, one located on the shore of Lake Baikal and another production unit in Svetogorsk on the border with Finland. These two discourses provide deep insight to pro-industry and nature protection positions, which characterized Soviet water pollution and protection discourses in the 1950s–1960s. The paper contends that discussions about pulp production near Baikal influenced other regions to improve the engineering of water treatment facilities. The development of such facilities became a compromise between supporters and defenders of increasing pulp production, but did not result in solving the problem of water pollution. In analyzing this issue, I consider discussions around the Baikal pulp plant and the first attempts to introduce advanced water treatment in an industrial city of Svetogorsk and beyond. I will also discuss contacts with the West, in particular with Finland, and their effects on Soviet water management.
In this paper, we model the function of rainwater harvesting cisterns in ancient Greece. The model calculates on a monthly basis: (1) the collected and stored volume of water; (2) the amount of water extracted for individual use; and (3) the potential accumulated surplus available by the end of a month. The potential of the model is explored through two case studies based on material from Olynthos in Thessaly and Dystos on ancient Euboia by running 26 consecutive annual cycles utilizing modern precipitation data from meteorological stations as a proxy for ancient precipitation and precipitation variability. Our results show that cisterns can provide ample amounts of freshwater to households and function as buffers for water stress in shorter (monthly), and longer terms (seasonally, yearly and between years). The two cisterns in this paper yield between 10.7 and 86.6 m3 per annum with a strong variability in collected water volumes within and between years. Yet, this variability is, largely predictable and thus the use of cisterns in ancient Greece should be viewed in the light of predictable variability that required active participation from members of the household to be efficient.