18 April 2011: The Cultural Heritage of Water


18 April

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  • Bibliography on Water and cultural Heritage
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    Feel free to suggest other interesting links on the theme !

    EUROMED Heritage IV
    REMEE and HAMMAMED projects
    National resources

    UN and UNESCO initiatives

    Natural Science Sector

    The UN International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources:

    In addition, 2005 -2015 was declared by the UN as International Decade for Action Water for Life”: See website

    To find out more about traditional water management, see:

    • International Center on Qanats & Historic Hydraulic Structures (ICQHS) – under the auspices of UNESCO – website
    • UNESCO Institute for Water Education (IHE) – website

    UNESCO-International Hydrological Programme – promoting linkages between water and culture: read document (PDF)

    Culture Sector

    The UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage:
    Read text

    The UNESCO Secretariat for the Convention is pleased to present several new tools available on their web site:  

    • New Tutorial on the Rules concerning activities directed at Underwater Cultural Heritage, which shall serve as a reference for site managers, stakeholders and partners in the protection of underwater cultural heritage and for training courses in underwater archaeology. The Scientific Editor of the tutorial is Mr. Thijs Maarleveld, President of the ICOMOS International Committee for Underwater Cultural Heritage. Several Committee members contributed as authors.
      Download the tutorial.
    • New Children's Web page, illustrating underwater cultural heritage to next generations: website
    • New General Public web page :

    UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage:

    The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity include examples of intangible heritage practices linked to water. Striking examples can be seen in the Irrigators′ tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean coast: the Council of Wise Men of the plain of Murcia and the Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia.

    Watch the film presenting the functioning of these tribunals: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00011&RL=00171

    Euromed Heritage 4 Preserving Water’s M emory

    A programme funded by the European Union  

    Since 1998, the Euromed Heritage regional programme in three phases committed a total of 57 million euros to fund partnerships between conservation experts and heritage institutions from the countries of the Mediterranean region. Today, embedded in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and with a budget of 17 million euros, Euromed Heritage 4 (2008-2012) intends to facilitate the appropriation by people of their own national and regional cultural legacy through easier access to education and knowledge on cultural heritage. To meet this goal, a number of projects are funded for a three-year period bringing together a leading organi sation and various partners from both the European Union and Mediterranean Partner Countries.

    The use of water is deeply intertwined with Mediterranean civilisation: since the Euromed Heritage 4 programme works for the preservation of cultural heritage, water as a precious catalyst for the development of cultural practices is at the heart of two different initiatives.

    The REMEE projectpromoting the preservation of vernacular heritage linked to water management in the Euro-Mediterranean region ( www.remee.eu/)

    The project stems from the acknowledgment that today most of this vernacular heritage is unprotected, and recent developments – both societal and economic – threaten its survival.  “In Marrakech, Morocco, fifty years ago there were more than a hundred fountains”, says Matthieu Guary, the international head of Remee . “T oday, half of them have disappeared, or face neglect.”  Canals, wells and underground drains known as “ foggare” – a traditional Algerian water system – in many cases are forgotten and endangered by the advance of modern society, such as the mechani sation of agriculture. The same can be said for fountains, hammams, gardens and thermal baths in cities, where migration from rural areas and uncontrolled urban expansion are threatening this historical treasure.  “That is why our objective is to make the citizens of the Mediterranean rediscover the importance of their historical heritage”, continues Guary, “ to promote water management techniques and also local development projects based on the promotion of this precious resource”.

    The HAMMAMED project aims to raise awareness of the importance of the hammam as tangible and intangible cultural heritage – (www.hammamed.net/index.html).

    The hammam, or public Turkish bath , is more than a specific architectural legacy threatened by time: it is an item of shared cultural value across the Mediterranean region. Since the times of the Roman bath-houses, this discreet building has accompanied the daily life of citizens across the region. Activities within the project advocate the social importance and the intergenerational values of this legacy that for centuries have been well embedded in urban communities. Among the many objectives of the project is the promotion of effective management for two selected hammams : the Ammuna in Damascus, Syria, and the Saffarin in Fez, Morocco.

    For further information on Euromed Heritage 4, see www.euromedheritage.net/

    National Resources

    1. The Canadian Heritage Rivers System / Le Réseau de rivières du patrimoine canadien - http://www.chrs.ca/About_e.htm
    2. The American Heritage Rivers Initiative - http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/named/heritage/
    3. Other

      The Ramsar Convention

      The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), called the “ Ramsar Convention” , is an intergovernmental treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their Wetlands of International Importance and to plan for the “ wise use” , or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories.

      Because wetlands, since ancient times, have been inhabited and used in many ways by human beings, there are strong cultural and spiritual values associated with many of them.

      To read more about the link between culture and wetlands in the context of this Convention, see website

      Hydria project

      This website presents how water has been collected, stored, transferred and managed over the centuries in the different countries of the Mediterranean. The aim of this project is to collect information on ancient and traditional water management techniques in order to help address today’s needs in harmony with the environment.

      Project carried out by MIO-ECSDE and GWP, under the auspices of UNESCO.

      An interesting publication series: Acquae: Studi e testi sulle terme ("Studies and texts on Spas") See article on ICOMOS Documentation Centre blog

      Water and Culture - The website is meant to exchange knowledge and information on traditional beliefs and valuable cultural 'water practices' - Website













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