History of water cisterns: Legacies and lessons

Larry Mays, George P. Antoniou, Andreas N. Angelakis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The use of water cisterns has been traced back to the Neolithic Age; this paper thus presents a brief historical development of water cisterns worldwide over the last 5500 years. This paper is not an exhaustive presentation of all that is known today about water cisterns, but rather provides some characteristic examples of cistern technology in a chronological manner extending from prehistoric times to the present. The examples of water cistern technologies and management practices given in this paper may have some importance for water resource sustainability for the present and future. Cisterns have been used to store both rainfall runoff water and aqueduct water originating in springs and streams for the purpose of meeting water needs through seasonal variations. Cisterns have ranged in construction from simple clay pots to large underground structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1916-1940
Number of pages25
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Ancient civilizations
  • Byzantine period
  • Classical period
  • Hellenistic period
  • Maya
  • Minoan crete
  • Ottomans
  • Roman period
  • Venetian period
  • Xochicalco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Biochemistry


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