May 2018 Ancient Rome Aqueducts, Italy 


From Spain to Syria, aqueducts helped create and stabilize the Roman Empire by ensuring water availability. Ancient Roman emperors had water piped to both homes of the rich and public fountains for the poor. They saw this as critical to their empire building and social justice. The democratic role of this infrastructure remains exemplary, especially given current water distribution issues from China to Flint MI to California (another NWNL Spotlight). 

Our NWNL expedition to Rome addressed the efficiency and stability created by the Ancient Roman Empire’s engineered water delivery via aqueducts, whether in Rome or to distant empire outposts. NWNL also delved into the historic consideration after extreme flooding of redirecting the Tiber River – a plan replaced by channeling with high cement walls along both banks. 

This expedition provides useful comparison of Rome’s centuries of water infrastructure to today’s monumental dams NWNL has visited in California’s Central Valley and the Columbia River Basin, as well as the USACE lock-and-dam and levee system along the Mississippi River. The ultimate justification of designating Ancient Rome as a NWNL Spotlight was the commentary often heard in Rome: “No Water No Empire!”