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Case Studies

Case Studies from different countries have been selected to highlight the range of water harvesting systems in the Mediterranean region:

  • The use of the Shaduf water lifting device in the middle of the Sahara in south-western Algeria(USTO and SUD TIMMI)
  • Water management of khettaras (foggaras) in Morocco (UMI).
  • Ancient Nabatean water harvesting and delivery systems in Petra, Jordan (PNT).
  • Underground tunnels and aqueducts in Jerusalem & their historical use and modifications, Palestine (VIA MARIS).
  • Traditional water management systems in Egypt (CULTNAT)
  • Historical water, drainage, and wastewater technologies in Crete, Greece (NAGREF).
  • Water harvesting and managing rainfall in urban ecosystems in Italy (IPOGEA)
  • The use of the Shaduf water lifting device in the middle of the Sahara in south-western Algeria

    USTO and SUD TIMMI (Algeria) studied the use of the shaduf water lifting device within the context of an ingenious method of water harvesting in the middle of the Sahara in south-western Algeria. They provide details of the process by which palm groves and gardens (Birda) are established and maintained in the face of -

    Constant invasion by windblown sand and droughts.

    They also discuss the current problems facing desert garden and the use of the shaduf as a result of both ecological and socioeconomic and political changes in the region. SUD TIMMI provided, in addition, a detailed scheme for the rehabilitation of birdas and the shaduf with budget estimates and the sequence of operational steps.

    Intensive agriculture activity and the intensive use of pumps are the main factors behind the lowering of the water table level. As water gets deeper, the traditional use of the water-lifting Shaduf is compromised. It has to be made bigger to reach deeper wells.

    Water management of khettaras (foggaras) in Morocco

    Umi, Morocco

    To improve water management of khettaras in Morocco, UMI developed a database and applied remote sensing methods, statistical analyses, and GIS in the Tafilalet region.

    These IT methods provided a better understanding of the dynamics of the interactions among household uses, irrigation, range management, drainage, water table fluctuations, rainfall, and catchment area.

    It became evident that the khettaras are threatened by desertification as a result of climate change:

    Accumulation of windblown sand, salinization, and over-withdrawal of water.

    Ancient Nabatean water harvesting and delivery systems in Petra

    Pnt, Jordan

    Petra, a world heritage site, has one of the most elaborate, fairly well preserved ancient water supply systems in the Mediterranean region. PNT surveyed the entire water supply system, engaged in excavation and restoration projects that provided for the first time clear and undeniable archaeological evidence for the construction, functioning and the dating of Petra water works.

    The study revealed that at its final stage, the spring water supply system of Petra covered the entire area of the city basin, bringing spring water from the East, South and North into the city. The location of the end reservoirs show that all four quarters of the city had their own aqueduct.Normally public fountains provided the inhabitants of Petra with drinking water, but some of the most prestigious houses were directly connected with the public reservoirs.

    Excavations in the Siq have clearly shown that the terracotta pipes with which the aqueduct was built are the oldest ones known to have been manufactured on the potter's wheel.

    Underground tunnels and aqueducts in Jerusalem & their historical use and modifications

    Via Maris, Palestine

    The existence and prosperity of one of the oldest and most renowned cities, Jerusalem, depended on an elaborate water supply system that conveyed water from spring sources to the city. Via Maris examined traditional water technqiues in palestine with a special focus on the water works associated with the Selwan Spring and the aqueducts of Jerusalem.

    The contributions by highlight the importance of aqueducts, subterranean tunnels, and cisterns as a means of managing scarce water resources both in rural and urban settings, and underscore the need to protect water resources in situations of political conflicts. The main threats to the preservation of the ancient water system of Jerusalem include the negative impact of urban developments, modern technology, and the expansion of Israeli settlements, construction of roads and the Wall.

    A call is made for the protection, preservation and valorization of these ancient works that have historical, architectural, and hydrological value.

    Traditional water management systems in Egypt

    Cultnat, Egypt

    Traditional water management systems in Egypt range from runoff harvesting systems on the Mediterranean Coast to the use of artificial methods to make the best use of Nile summer floods. CULTNAT made a survey of all the different traditional and historical water harvesting method with a focus on the ancient water works in the Faiyum oasis.

    CULTNAT confirmed archaeologically the legend of the construction of a reservoir and water works by the kings of the Middle Kingdom (2055-1550 BC) and succeeded in resolving the mystery of where the reservoir mentioned by Herodotus (Moeris Lake) was situated. The impact of climate change on the Middle Kingdom dams and on later developments in the Faiyum were examined with important implications for our current understanding of climate change and its consequences.

    CULTNAT also studied the possibilities of restoring and valorizing the ancient water works

    Historical water, drainage, and wastewater technologies in Crete

    Nagref, Greece

    The Aegean islands and Crete have been characterized by limited and often inadequate natural water resources. NAGREF provided a description of the historical water and waster water technologies in Crete, where urban hydraulic systems were first applied during the Bronze Age (ca. 3500-1200 BC). The Cretan technologies were subsequently further developed in the Greek Mainland to become a part of the cultural heritage of the Greek and Roman Civilizations and of the foundation of modern water engineering and management.

    In crete aqueducts and cisterns were among the most important water conveyance and storage technologies. Crete also has the earliest example of a sewer dating to the middle of the 3rd millennium (Early Minoan IIA) from a house under the west court of the Palace at Knossos. This evolution of water management also included various areas of water resources such as water abstraction, water transportation, water storage, water distribution, construction and use of fountains, and even recreational uses of water.

    Water harvesting and managing rainfall in urban ecosystems

    Ipogea, Italy

    The Sassi of Matera is an urban ecosystem completely based on harvesting and managing rainfall. Water is harvested by ancient underground cisterns carved out of limestone which are supplied by rain water from rooftops.

    They are also fed by tunnels which receive runoff from the slope and conveyed into natural channels, terraces, tunnels and cisterns forming "hanging gardens." In the context of the SHADUF project, IPOGEA reiterated the general model of the development of water harvesting systems in Matera, southern Italy. Water management was traced from its humble beginnings among hunters and gatherers to the elaborate sophisticated systems in urban settings.

    IPOGEA examined in greater detail the cisterns in Matera. "Roof-cisterns" are are still used nowadays in Southern Italy, specially on Murge Plateau. Built at the bottom of a watershed, these structures harvest water runoff and moisture from the soil. A roof-cistern belonging to the XIX century, was restored by IPOGEA.