Ancient rainwater harvesting methods for modern times

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March 10, 2017 by Species Ecology

Ancient rainwater harvesting methods for modern times

Nour Habjoka

Rainwater harvesting is defined as the collection and storage of any form of water resulting from rain in soil profile and reservoirs both above and under surface. It is an ancient practice that dates back to 400 B.C. exercised by people of the Middle East like the Nabataeans. The Nabataeans are an ancient people who inhabited the southern parts of Jordan and Israel and controlled the trade routes. They inhabited extremely arid terrain and are best known for carving the rose city Petra in the mountains. Equally as marvelous, they mastered the art of rainwater harvesting in underground cisterns and conveyed water using pipes and channels. They build dams to conserve every drop of water and even perfected a kind of waterproof cement to line the pipes and cisterns to prevent water from leaching to the ground, which still exists until today.

Despite inhabiting in harsh and unforgiving environment, the Nabataeans techniques were an example of successful resource management that is adapted to their surroundings. Despite the fact ancient techniques and values relating to conservation of resources remain topical and mainly pivots around scattered communities of indigenous tribes across the globe, the reality however is the current day societies which inhabit what used to be the Nabataean empire two thousand years ago suffer intermittent water supply and chronic shortages.

Today, several organizations such as Mercy Corps and CARE International engage the local communities, urban and rural, in the conservation of water resources by enabling them of rehabilitating and constructing rainwater harvesting and storage systems. These programs are met with wide spread acceptance because they secure water for the houses that are not served with municipal water network or that are provided with intermittent supply. Moreover, they relieve the economically-challenged municipalities and prevent over harvesting of groundwater resources. It is peculiar how reminiscent these activities are to the ways of the Nabataeans’. Making use of every drop of water is a need, and it is worthwhile to take a close look at their methods and infrastructure. Perhaps the answers to this region’s water problems lie within the crevices of the underground cisterns and channels built by the ancient civilizations.


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