Handbook of Ancient Water Technology

By Örjan Wikander | Go to book overview

I.7 PURITY OF WATER

A. Trevor Hodge

All fresh water begins as rainfall, and (apart from modern industrial pollution creating acid rain), as rainfall, all water is completely pure. When it reaches the earth it is then liable to be affected by the various elements that it encounters there. On falling to the ground, the water is stored in three different ways: these are surface water, soil water, and ground water. Surface water is self-explanatory, including lakes and streams. Soil water is water retained in the soil and enabling plants to grow. Ground water is what the layman would call “underground water,” either in the form of underground rivers, or, much more often, absorbed in geologic strata of some porous material (e.g., limestone) that is saturated with water, and known to geologists as an aquifer. It was this ground water that satisfied most of the ancients' hydraulic needs.

True, some of the aqueducts drew their supplies from surface water. At Rome, the Anio Vetus and the Anio Novus, as their names imply, drew their supplies from the Anio River, and at Segovia (Spain) the aqueduct was fed by the Rio Acebeda, a small stream some 12 km south of the city. Indeed, Frontinus assures as that for the first four centuries of its life Rome drew its water from the Tiber, though this emphasises rather its primitive state than its deliberate choice of hydraulic priorities (Fron. Aq. 4). And one point must be noted. Cities, even when built on major rivers for commerce and communications, seldom used river water. For one thing, it was often polluted (that, after all, was there they usually dumped their sewage), and for another, given gravity flow, a river cannot satisfactorily serve a town built on its banks and hence above the water surface. The water has to come from a higher source.

We thus return to springs and the geological principles underlying them. In the Mediterranean area there is a general shortage of surface water, and the water has to be found deeper down;1 in particular

1 “The geological configuration prevalent on most of the ancient Greek lands on
the rim and the islands of the Aegean is a permeable limestone cap superimposed

-95-

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Handbook of Ancient Water Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • I. Water-Supply 1
  • I.1 - Geological Background, Climate, Water Resources 3
  • I.2 - Collection of Water 21
  • I.3 - Wells 29
  • I.4 - Qanats 35
  • I.5 - Aqueducts 39
  • I.6 Engineering Works 67
  • I.7 Purity of Water 95
  • Ii. Urban Use 101
  • Ii.1 - Urban Water Transport and Distribution 103
  • Ii.2 - Industrial Uses of Water* 127
  • Ii.3 - Drainage and Sanitation* 151
  • Iii. Irrigation and Rural Drainage 181
  • Iii.1 - Irrigation 183
  • Iii.2 - Water-Lifting 217
  • Iii.3 - Land Drainage 303
  • Iv. Larger Hydraulic Infringements on Nature 319
  • Iv.1 - Canals 321
  • Iv.2 - Reservoirs and Dams 331
  • V. Water-Power 341
  • V.1 - Theoretical Hydraulics, Automata, and Water Clocks 343
  • V.2 - The Water-Mill 371
  • V.3 - Industrial Applications of Water-Power 401
  • Vi. Water as an Aesthetic and Recreational Element 411
  • Vi.1 - Fountains and Nymphaea 413
  • Vi.2 - Water Landscaping 453
  • Vi.3 - The Water Management of Greek and Roman Baths 467
  • Vii. Water Legislation in the Ancient World (C. 2200 B.C.–c. A.D. 500) 537
  • Vii.1 - Mesopotamia, the Hittites and the Arabian Peninsula 539
  • Vii.2 - Egypt 551
  • Vii.3 - The Greek World 557
  • Vii.4 - The Roman World 575
  • Viii. Historical Context. the Socio-Economic Background and Effects 605
  • Viii.1 - The Neolithic and Bronze Ages 607
  • Viii.2 - The Iron Age, and the Archaic and Classical Periods 617
  • Viii.3 - The Hellenistic Period 631
  • Viii.4 - The Roman Empire 649
  • References 661
  • Indices 703
  • 2. Index of Personal Names 713
  • 3. Geographical Index 718
  • 4. Subject Index 735
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