Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Archeological Knowledge of Cisterns and Water Management in Malta

Water is a vital resource for life to survive in all environments. The Maltese have been struggling with the lack of water as far back as 3000 BC. My research analyzes how the Island of Malta has handled the water crisis throughout many centuries and continues to handle it today. Through analysis of research in books by Garry Hogg, Quentin Hughes, and a few others, I have found that Malta designed its water management system around the uses of cisterns throughout local communities and large temples. These cisterns primarily were designed as water tanks to become the primary source of fresh water during the dry summer months and were replenished with fresh water during the rainy season. Malta’s terrain is very rocky and largely composed of limestone. This prevents the absorption of rainfall leading to the majority of this water escaping as run-off to the Mediterranean Sea. With the construction of the Wignacourt Aqueduct during the 16th century which transported fresh water from Mdina to Valleta, the new capital city of Malta, water resources became more accessible allowing for agriculture to advance beyond what it was previously capable of. The cisterns were used for many centuries as the main source of storage of fresh water. Even today, thousand year old cisterns are still used for irrigation and plumbing (usually not drinking due to bacteria). As technology advanced in the 19th century, the Maltese now use desalination methods to support the countries need for fresh water. Desalination methods account for about 50% of the fresh water in Malta. This project dives deeper into the analysis of how the water crisis in Malta has impact the culture and the development of water storage methods from 3000 BC till now.

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