Old Aqueduct in Obidos.

Rome managed its water supply networks 2,000 years ago

The hidden wonders of antiquity never cease to amaze, and a recent discovery in France has brought yet another marvel into the spotlight. Unearthing the fascinating intricacies of Roman water management, a system that was meticulously devised around 2,000 years ago, the findings offer a vivid glimpse into the ancient world.


In a fascinating discovery, scientists have found that Rome already managed its water supply network some 2,000 years ago.

The fascinating intricacies of Roman water management, dating back around 2,000 years ago, have come to light through recent findings in France. This discovery showcases the ancient Roman engineers’ disciplined approach to managing and maintaining water supply systems.

A study by the University of Oxford, published in Science Advances, has identified evidence of skilled drinking water management in the ancient Roman aqueduct of Divona, located in Cahors, France. The investigation reveals lime deposits on the walls and floor, shedding light on the Roman engineers’ proficiency.

Regular Water Supply Maintenance Unveiled

These deposits, found to have been partly and regularly removed during maintenance, provide remarkable insights. Tool marks, calcite deformation, cleaning debris, and repairs confirm the periodic manual removal by Roman maintenance crews. Such attention prevented the deposits from thickening and obstructing the channel over decades, proving that Rome excellently managed its water supply networks more than two millennia ago.

According to the research, the cleaning process occurred every one to five years and was executed swiftly, avoiding summer months. This practice aligns with the recommendations of the Roman author Sextus Julius Frontinus, who penned the only known guide on aqueduct maintenance during his tenure as Rome’s hydraulic works supervisor in AD 40-103.


Rome and its Water Management 

Dr. Sürmelihindi, one of the researchers, eloquently expressed the sentiment of the discovery, stating, “Each aqueduct’s carbonate research from each ancient city has its own micro-story in the grander story of Roman life, waiting to be revealed.”

Archaeological evidence points to the Divona aqueduct’s operation from the 1st to the early 5th century AD. Regular maintenance persisted, albeit at a reduced frequency, until the aqueduct’s final years. Oxygen isotope analysis recorded 88 years of aqueduct activity, revealing cleaning intervals of 1–5 years and suggesting a consistent cleaning regimen.

Seasonal Cleaning Routine

The unique shape of the oxygen isotope profile disclosed that each cleaning was accomplished in under a month, typically during spring, autumn, or winter, but never in summer.

Beyond elucidating Roman water management, the research potentially offers insights into the local economy and political stability. Regular maintenance is viewed as evidence of a well-structured ancient town, while inconsistencies in maintenance hint at socio-economic distress.

Ongoing Investigation and Implications

The research on Divona and neighboring aqueducts continues, with expectations that it may yield further insights into Roman life and the eventual societal collapse in southern France due to political and environmental factors.


The fascinating discovery of the ancient Romans’ water management techniques in France offers a captivating glimpse into their engineering prowess. As research continues, this find may unravel more secrets of Roman life and societal structures.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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