Event archive

Event Organiser: The Irrigation and Water Forum

Learning from historic irrigation and drainage structures, online

  • Webinar
  • Online
  • 19 February 2021
  • 15:00 - 17:00
Learning from historic irrigation and drainage structures, online

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The past has much to teach us about the present and the future. The rapid changes that are taking place around the world caution us to learn from history. This is as true in irrigation and drainage as in most other walks of life. The ICID Working Group on History of Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control documents the history of irrigation, drainage, flood management, and river engineering, incorporating relevant agricultural, political, socio-economic, climatologic and geographic aspects for the proper understanding of technological developments. The Working Group is currently compiling a book on “Water Sustainability through History”.

In this meeting, the work of the ICID Working Group on History of Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control will be presented and the importance of understanding the history of water management at specific locations will be highlighted by considering the histories of two irrigation and drainage systems, one in Italy and one in Britain, to show what learning their histories provide for present and future water managers.


15.00 - Start, welcome and introduction
                 Dr Ian Tod (IWF Chair)
15.05 - Past Wisdom for Future Challenges
                 Dr Kamran Emami (ICID and Kurit Kara Consulting Engineers)
15.30 - Q & A
15.40 - Aqua Augusta: A System of Aqueducts from the First Century B.C. serving the Roman
                 Dr Marco Arcieri (ICID and Southern Italy Hydrographic District Authority)
16.05 - Q & A
16.15 - Water Management in the Fens – the History, Challenges and Opportunities
                  Abigail Jackson (Environment Agency) and Peter Bateson (Witham Fourth District Internal
                 Drainage Board)
16.40 - Q & A
16.50 - General discussion and close of meeting.


Dr Kamran Emami

Vice President, ICID and Managing Director, Kurit Kara Consulting Engineers, Tehran

Kamran Emami has a PhD in Water Engineering and is a practising consulting engineer. He has 30 years of professional experience in value engineering, dam engineering, flood management, historical hydraulic structures and risk management. He has authored 11 books and 121 papers on flood management, value engineering and water history.

Dr Emami is currently Vice President, ICID (2018-2021) and Chairman and Iran’s representative on the following ICID Working Groups:

  • History of Irrigation and Drainage and Flood Control (WG-HIST)
  • Value Engineering (WG-VE)
  • Adaptive Flood Management (WG-AFM)
Talk title : Past Wisdom for Future Challenges

Abstract: At the start of the 21st century, humankind established itself on a non-sustainable course - a course that, unless corrected, will lead to catastrophes and awesome consequences. The water wisdom of the past, which was achieved over a period of hundreds of years, can be regarded as a unique and irreplaceable gift from our ancestors to this generation facing the great challenge of ensuring sustainable development. Based on the researches undertaken by the members of ICID Working Group WG-HIST on Historical Water Sustainability in 15 countries, the following lessons may be summarized:

  1. Humankind can achieve the unthinkable as many outstanding and great sustainable projects in several countries illustrate. These achievements were resulted from the following:
    • Vision
    • Collective action
    • Synergy of people, politicians and engineers
    • Audacity
    • Fortitude
    • Adapting to local conditions
  2. Striking a balance between Construction vs. Operation investments is the key to sustainability
    • An irrigation system may fail slowly, rather than suddenly. Quite possibly, gradual failures are more numerous than sudden ones
    • ntergenerational responsibilities should be planned and ensured
  3. To cope with inherent uncertainties of water engineering, monitoring and adaptations are essential requirements
  4. Creativity is a must when dealing with very different adverse conditions
  5. Renewable Energy is one of the most important pillars of sustainability
  6. Appropriate and adaptable rules and regulations are extremely important and vital
  7. The importance of technology transfer has been illustrated by many case studies
  8. Non -Structural Aspects can be more effective and efficient than structural measures in many projects and can play a key role in almost all water projects

And there are many more lessons to be learned and shared from WATER WISDOM of the PAST!

Dr Marco Arcieri

Crop Systems, Forestry & Environmental Sciences, ICID, Central Office, New Delhi

Marco Arcieri has a PhD in Crop Systems, Forestry and Environmental Sciences. He is a Technical Officer of the Southern Italy Hydrographic District Authority, Ministry of Environment. Over the past 25 years he has undertaken research in over 40 countries worldwide and published a number of papers in peer reviewed journals dealing with water resources management and irrigation planning and design, with a particular focus on atmosphere-soil-water-plant interactions, crop water requirements, sustainable agriculture and water saving in agriculture.

Dr Arcieri is currently the Senior Vice President of ICID, and Secretary General of ITAL-ICID, the National Committee of Italy. He is a member of the ICID Task Force to Guide the Partnership Process (TF-GPP), providing support to the High Level Advisory Group (HLAG) on ‘Partnership for Agricultural Water Management’. He is a member of the ICID Panel of Judges for evaluations of nominations invited under the ‘Scheme for Recognition of Heritage Irrigation Structures’. He is Head of the ICID Regional Node for the Mediterranean Area – IRPID Program. He is Chair of the ICID Permanent Finance Committee, a member of the ICID Working Groups ‘Water & Crop’, ‘European’ and ‘History’. He is a member of the Steering Committee of UN FAO WASAG – The Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture, and a Permanent Observer to UN Agencies FAO, IFAD and WMO.

Talk title Aqua Augusta: A System of Aqueducts from the First Century B.C. serving the Roman Empire

Abstract The Aqua Augusta is a complex system of aqueducts conceived under the rule of the Roman Emperor Augusto. 145 km long, including secondary canals, it was built during the second half of the First Century B.C. in order to collect waters flowing from the Serino river springs in Campania region (Southern Italy), near Benevento and convey them, mostly underground, to the several towns scattered along the Gulf of Naples for drinking, irrigation and sanitation purposes. These were ranging from Pompeii and Baia, where many important roman villas were located, to Naples and all the way down to the military harbour of Misenum, a very important and a strategic naval base of the Empire as the largest Roman fleet, at that time, was docked there. The final destination of this sophisticated system of canals, underground conduits and bridges, essentially built to supply drinking water and ensure food security to the vast population of the area, was a huge cistern-reservoir known as the “Piscina Mirabilis” (magnificent pool) with a storage capacity of more than 12,000 m3 and thus capable of ensuring a water supply service for more than two weeks in case of suspension of delivery, to the more than 30,000 people living at that time in the naval base and serving the Roman Empire fleet. Along with an overall description of the system, the presentation will deal with the advanced technical solutions provided by the aqueduct and, particularly, it will describe the distribution of water in ancient Pompeii.

Abigail Jackson and Peter Bateson

AJ: Effectiveness Initiative Lead, Lincolnshire & Northamptonshire Area, Environment Agency

IW: Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board

Abigail Jackson bio:

Abigail Jackson has a background in Zoological and Environmental Conservation. She spent a decade working in the education sector of zoo and wildlife conservation. Since 2012 she has worked for the Environment Agency, with an overarching role as an Engagement Specialist.

Initially, Abigail worked in the agriculture and land management sector, focused on developing strong partnership working to address agricultural issues and opportunities across East Anglia. In 2014 she moved into the Flood and Coastal Risk Management arm of the organisation, utilising her engagement skills and developing as a technical specialist. She is currently developing a new programme for the area, the ‘Effectiveness Initiative’, which aims to embed a whole lifecycle approach to asset management in line with the ISO5500 standards. Abigail also leads on sensitive or high-risk projects for Lincolnshire & Northamptonshire, in particular the challenge of man-made land drainage systems in the current climate.

In addition, Abigail is involved with the EA’s ‘Flood Incident Response’ work during heavy and prolonged rainfall events. This includes the recovery and review phase, aligning emergency response with sustainable, long-term flood risk strategies.

Peter Bateson bio

Peter Bateson is a qualified accountant. He spent 15 years with Deloitte in an Audit and Advisory capacity, before taking on Finance Director roles for two professional services firms in Nottingham and Lincoln. He is currently the CEO of a large IDB that manages flood risk in Lincolnshire with full finance and governance responsibility. This current role enables him to build strong relationships with the EA and other Risk Management Authorities. In 2018 he led a £2M project to rebuild 6km of Wrangle Sea Banks, a unique partnership project that raised sea defences to 7 metres to protect vital agricultural land and properties from the effects of Climate Change.

For the last 6 years Peter has been Company Secretary for the National Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA), and for the last 5 years has been a Board member of Smaller Authorities Audit Appointment Ltd, the body that replaced the Audit Commission and appoints auditors for all Parish Councils and Drainage Boards in England.

Title Talk: Water Management in the Fens – the history, challenges and opportunities

The fenlands of Lincolnshire have a rich and varied history of land drainage. From the canalisation of wetlands to the successive creation of sea banks for coastal land reclamation, for centuries the county has drained land for the agricultural economy. This engineered approach to water management, particularly before mechanisation of the process, is still evident in the structures we see in the fens today through impressive structures such as Black Sluice Pumping Station in Boston.

The resultant high-grade agricultural land has long been valued by the nation, but with a changing climate and ever-increasing pressures of urbanisation, there is a need for a step change in how we manage water. These drainage systems, designed for a different era, may no longer be effective, efficient or sustainable in some areas today. Partnership working is key to securing multiple benefits for water management, from mitigating flood risk to water storage during droughts. The EA and Internal Drainage Boards are developing joint strategies to tackle this water challenge in South Lincolnshire. Key schemes include the Wrangle Sea Banks project and South Lincolnshire Water Partnership. These are major steps in ensuring a coordinated, resilient and beneficial approach to water management in the Lincolnshire Fens.

Event venue

United Kingdom

For more information please contact:

Elira Alushi

e: [email protected]