Expert: Ancient water management more sustainable than today

March 23, 2012, Friday/ 17:08:00/ LATİFA AKAY

Dozens of leading academics from countries ranging from Libya to Australia and Israel to Egypt are currently assembled in İstanbul for the third conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies in Ancient Civilizations (WWTAC), offering enlightened and diverse perspectives on all aspects of modern water technology by reflecting on the use of water and wastewater technology through history.

A three-day affair that kicked off on Thursday at the Barcelo Eresin Hotel as one of the hundreds of events taking place around the globe in celebration of International World Water Day, the conference has seen everything and anything water-related discussed, from the Hittite Ponds of Hattusa and the Nomad Cisterns in Antalya to water supplies and conservation in Ancient Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Professor Unal Oziş, who delivered a speech on “Water Works of Four Millennia in Turkey,” told his audience that water conveyance systems made three millennia ago, such as the Şamran Canal in eastern Anatolia, are astonishingly still functioning today.

Oziş told Today's Zaman that the volume of water that needs to be transported nowadays means different methods of transportation had to be developed, but that the technology used historically was more sustainable than what we use today. “To think that an earthen canal is still in use after 2,800 years is a miracle,” the veteran professor said, adding, “Another interesting point is that our ancestors could live with very little water, whereas we are of course monsters in this regard.”

Professor Larry Mays of Arizona State University shed light on the gods and goddesses of water and some of the curious and often mysterious traditions associated with these mythological figures of ancient societies, including Ancient Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica in a lecture on Thursday. Speaking in an interview with Today's Zaman, Mays, an engineer by trade, said that technology used 2,000 years ago by societies such as those in Mesoamerica would be a lot more sustainable for use in some parts of Africa than expensive and unsustainable systems often forced upon less-developed societies. “There is a lot to learn from these ancient societies, but unfortunately when there is a lack of access to knowledge of these legacies, we can end up missing out.”

Recep Ali Topçu, chairman of the Adell Production company, which is also hosting an exhibition of rare artifacts at the conference pertaining to water culture in the everyday life of Ottomans from the Ab-Ihayat collection, told Today's Zaman that water held a special place in Ottoman culture. “When we look back, water played an integral role in the social lives of people during this period at hamams and bathhouses or at public fountains,” he said, adding, “For millions of years, water has not only been crucial to the continuation of all forms of life but has posed as a symbol of cleanliness, fruitfulness and holiness.”

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