Roman Cisterns in Cartagena de Murcia

by Margarita Pacheco | 26 January 2023
catégories : programme5

Image Roman Cisterns in Cartagena de Murcia

Murcia is a Province in the southeast of Spain with a long history of Mediterranean exchanges among sailors, religions, slavery and different occupations.

Since the Fenicians in the II century b.c indigenous settlements were exposed to other civilizations from the east and south of the Mediterranean.

Several occupations from the eastern Roman Empire in Bizance, Moors and Berbers from Northern Africa, jewish, Visigods, Catholics have lived together and struggled along history dominating the coastal areas in different periods. Archeological findings illustrate a complex land domination and cultural syncretisms along the centuries. Water provision was a key factor for military defense.

Mining, trade, stonewall building, towers on top of hills, coliseum, ports facilitated exchange of agricultural and fishing products . The dry landscape with scarce rain, semi desert flora and fauna in bare mountains and plains oblige to explore groundwater and to become creative with water utilization through out times. Today there are social movements protesting for a better water management in a land with long lasting droughts.

Ancient Mediterranean economy was obliged to build a military architecture to defend from piracy and occupations. It also brought knowledge on urbanism and hydraulic management systems to maintain towns and castles integrated to a regional economy.

In the II century b.c., Azdrubal, a Roman from Cartago in North Africa founded Cartago Nova in the Murcia Province. The city expands in the surrounding hills and a colosseum is built in front of the sea. The cisterns built as a refined rainwater system illustrate the knowledge on hydraulic management options to provide fresh water to a collective cultural building.

These Roman Cisterns are witnessing an ancient RWH technology that is being lost. In India is happening the same loss as mentioned in “Dying Wisdom” by Anil Argawal and Sunita Narain in 1980.

With the current global political stress around climate change and extreme weather events in most regions of the world, the question would be how and where to promote rainwater harvesting systems, which are a valuable option both where there are floods and droughts.

A common good such as rainfall, should become the source for national, regional and local environmental policies, linked to disaster prevention strategies.

Desalination is becoming an obligatory alternative in Murcia. Facilities are using solar energy to help fossil fuel transition to renewable energies in water provision. The question now is which are the impacts of using seawater at a large scale to feed agriculture and domestic needs in cities with an increasing foreign retired population?

The desertifying landscape intervened by mining since two thousand years is now putting in evidence the disappearance of rivers basins and water falls, groundwater sources and rainfall.

The testimony of the Roman cisterns in the Cartagena colosseum remains as a symbol of rainwater management in ancient civilizations that is vanishing due to increasing drought and scarce rain in many regions and cultures of the world.

Many thanks to Juan Alfredo Pinto and Soraya Caro for welcoming me in Mazarrón, a neighboring port across the mountains to Cartagena de Murcia, from where we can better understand our Spanish/Arab colonial ancestors in Colombia.

catégories : programme5

Your support is key


Name: IRHA
Account: 17-198970-3
IBAN: CH15 0900 0000 1719 8970 3

Recognised as a public utility, your donations to the IRHA are tax deductible.



Keep in touch with by subscribing to our newsletter


International Environment House 2
Chemin de Balexert, 9
CH-1219 Châtelaine

Tel. : +41 22 797 41 57
E-mail :

Data Protection