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Water Collection and Distribution Systems in the Palermo Plain during the Middle Ages
Department of Environment, Waste Divison, Salerno Province, via Mauri 61, Salerno 84129, Italy
Department of Chemistry and Biology, University of Salerno, via Giovanni Paolo II 132, Fisciano (SA) 84084, Italy
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Salerno, via Giovanni Paolo II 132, Fisciano (SA) 84084, Italy
UNESCO IHP (International Hydrological Programme) 1 rue Miollis-Paris 75015, France
Italian Alpine Club (CAI)-Sezione della Conca d'Oro di Palermo, via Nicolò Garzilli, Palermo 90141, Italy
School of Science and Technology, Hellenic Open University, Aristotelous 18, Patras 26335, Greece
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 21 August 2013; in revised form: 23 September 2013 / Accepted: 26 September 2013 / Published: 14 October 2013
Abstract: It has been said that Palermo is short of available water. However, nothing could be more wrong. Well-documented Arab sources and narrative chronicles reported an abundance of groundwater resources in Palermo Plain since the Middle Ages. The scarcity of sources and surface water in the Palermo Plain, compared to the groundwater abundance, led the inhabitants to use groundwater both for irrigation and domestic usage through a complex and sustainable hydraulic system. Vertical and horizontal (qanāts) wells, conveyed water towards gardens and public fountains making the Arabic Bal’harm (Palermo) a flourishing town. When visitors walk through the streets of Palermo’s historical center, among Arab ruins and Baroque architecture, they hardly imagine that there is a wide and varied cultural heritage of underground cavities hidden in the basements where water flows in intricate networks fed from a numerous springs. Only in recent years was a part of this system brought to light. Moreover, the city still has a wide and fascinating water distribution system consisting of irrigation basin (gebbie), ingenious hydraulic machines named senie, and distribution chessboard of irrigation (saje) and drinking water (catusi) canals. The medieval water collection and distribution systems and their various components in the Palermo Plain are reviewed together with the influence of the Arab water management on environment.
Keywords: history; Palermo; qanāt; ingruttati; gebbia; senia; saje
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Lofrano, G.; Carotenuto, M.; Maffettone, R.; Todaro, P.; Sammataro, S.; Kalavrouziotis, I.K. Water Collection and Distribution Systems in the Palermo Plain during the Middle Ages. Water 2013, 5, 1662-1676.
Lofrano G, Carotenuto M, Maffettone R, Todaro P, Sammataro S, Kalavrouziotis IK. Water Collection and Distribution Systems in the Palermo Plain during the Middle Ages. Water. 2013; 5(4):1662-1676.
Lofrano, Giusy; Carotenuto, Maurizio; Maffettone, Roberta; Todaro, Pietro; Sammataro, Silvia; Kalavrouziotis, Ioannis K. 2013. "Water Collection and Distribution Systems in the Palermo Plain during the Middle Ages." Water 5, no. 4: 1662-1676.