Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

September 4, 2011

Images of Ancient Water-Harvesting Art

by Brad Lancaster © 2011

There is a tradition of harvesting rainwater in all human-inhabited drylands of the world where it rains (and a great many wet areas that also experience dry seasons). I’ve been very lucky to have been able to travel to, and learn from, some of them.

Below are three images. One from Israel. One from Jordan. One from India. If you are traveling to any of these countries, I highly recommend you seek these sites out. They are all open to the public, and you can find them via the information I give in the captions of these and many more images in the Ancient Water Harvesting Art image gallery within my Water-Harvesting Images Gallery.

What I find consistent in surviving ancient water-harvesting systems is their beauty and the incredible quality of work. What I am most drawn to is the example set by ancient dryland cultures who strove to harvest and enhance their local waters, their local rainwater, and their local runoff, all while living within the limits of their local waters — in a way that enhanced their watershed community without draining and degrading others. We today have much to learn from that.

These ancient water-harvesting systems typically deposit rainwater into the watershed, which in turn tends to feed aquifers, springs, creeks, and rivers. So over time there is more water. More cycles in the hydrologic cycle, with gravity powering the system.

Modern pumped and piped water systems typically extract water from the watershed, which in turn often drains aquifers, springs, creeks and rivers. So over time there is less water. Fewer cycles in the hydrologic cycle, with fossil fuels powering the system.

See Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1 and Volume 2 for more case studies and how-to information on strategies that enhance our watersheds and watercycles.

2 Responses to “Images of Ancient Water-Harvesting Art”

  1. Green Digitalist Says:

    Those are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. I recently saw something on the Hist. Intl. channel about the Byzantines. They made a *huge* cistern to harvest and store h20: http://www.istanbultravelguide.net/undergroundcistern.htm wiki has a nice article too.

  2. Ches Says:

    The early european settlers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia used brick and stone lined cisterns to collect roof rainwater. The deep limestone bedrock in the area meant that surface water was rare in many areas and the 18th and 19th century wells needed to be too deep to be hand dug through the stone. With 30+ inches of rain per year this would hardly be considered an arid region. Thanks for sharing the photos.

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