Qanat, a Sustainable Ancient System for Exploitation of Underground Water in Iran S18
College of Agriculture, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran
|Qanat is a traditional method of groundwater
extraction in Iran, the oldest remains of which goes back to 3000 years ago. This
traditional system of water provision was adjusted to the harsh and hostile environmental
conditions of the country and in some region provided irrigation water for as much as 80%
of irrigated area. In Iran up to 50000 ranges of qanat with 22000 still in operation has
been recorded with total annual discharge of 16 billion m3 which is equivalent to 75% of
total discharge of Euphratus river. Qanat are composed of two main components: vertical
dug wells which collect water, and gently sloping tunnels which channel the water from
higher terrain down in the directions of plains. Length of a qanat from mother well to the
outelt point (gate) varies significantly depending on the topographic and geological
characteristics and also precipitation of the site, ranging from 1 to 50 km. The average
time to build a qanat is estimated to range between 2 to 7 years. Qanat digging was a
skill and some people were linked with the construction of this structure for their
livelihood. Qanat system comprises a human culture as well as physical ecosystem and the
nature of qanat supplies set a rhythem to life in the village.
Behnia, A. 1988. Qanat: Constrution and maintenence. Center for University Publications. Tehran.
FAO. 1973. Water laws in Moslem countries. Irrigation and Drainage Paper 20/1.
Wulff, H.E. 1986. The Qanats of Iran. Scientific American 218(4): 94-100.