A brief history of urban water supply in antiquity

Larry Mays, D. Koutsoyiannis, A. N. Angelakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


A brief history of ancient water supply techniques for urban areas from the earliest civilizations through the Roman times is presented. Throughout the history of urban centers, a sufficient water supply has been the backbone of each city. All sources of water, rivers, lakes, springs, underground sources, and rainwater collection, were exploited for urban supply starting from the earliest civilizations. The specific choice was dependent upon the civilization, the geomorphology, the topography, and the local climatic and hydrological conditions. No large-scale lifting techniques were available; thus, water was transferred from the source by aqueducts from a higher altitude. Cisterns used for collection of rain water and wells for drawing groundwater were very well developed since the Bronze Age. During historical times, Greeks and later Romans reached a high level of water supply technologies that greatly influenced modern achievements in water engineering and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalWater Science and Technology: Water Supply
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Ancient civilizations
  • Aqueducts
  • Cisterns
  • Urban water distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Water Science and Technology


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