Third World Centre for Water Management

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Ancient Urban Water Supply Systems

Water supply systems were important components of early urban settlements. Because of frequent invasions, much thought was given to develop an enemy-proof and reliable water supply system for a city. Sinnõrs, or water tunnels, were used in Palestine prior to 1200 BC.  Qanãts were used in many areas for ground water utilization. A qanãt is an artificial underground channel which carried water over long distances, either from spring or from a water bearing strata for irrigation and domestic consumption. Qanãts were probably first used in Armenia, from where they rapidly spread to many Middle East countries. Fairly detailed information is available on urban water supply systems during the time of the Roman Civilization, a period which extended from about 100 BC to 200 AD, from the writings of Vitruvius and especially Frontinus, who was the curator aquarum of Rome. Frontinus made a state-of-the-art review of urban water supply systems, which is now the primary source of information on technology and practice prevalent at that time.

Asit K. Biswas, 1985, Geo Journal, Volume 11, Issue 3, pages 207–213

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