Circular water stories worldwide

News - 25 January 2022 - Communication BK

Throughout the world, people have transformed natural water flows into ingenious and controlled water systems, creating impressive cultural and urban landscapes. Traditional water systems are comprehensive systems that are closely linked to the existing landscape, the people -who inhabit and work the landscape-, the animals and plants.

Landscape analysis

"To understand the relationship of water management and the emergence of cultural landscapes, villages and cities, a careful analysis of the landscape is necessary" states researcher Inge Bobbink. In order to build a quality living, indigenous people developed all kinds of measures to retain, infiltrate, drain, flood and reuse water. Traditional water systems developed over a long period of time by trial and error and the population accumulated knowledge as a result. Especially about adapting to an ever-changing context, such as the seasons, climate change, use, population growth, industrialisation and so on. Bobbink: "Many of these systems are still in operation but, are in danger of losing their resilience due to upscaling and rationalisation of water management systems and accelerated climate change."

Lessons to be learned

Landscape architectural research on traditional water systems aims to draw lessons for redesigning today's often anonymous, technically-driven water management systems into more communal, resilient, ecological and multifunctional public landscapes. 

The research on Traditional Water Systems is part of the Circular Water Stories (CWS) research led by Inge Bobbink. In the Circular Water Stories lab, master students study Traditional Water Systems by applying the illustrative method, in which the use and the stories of the water workers and users also play a role. By mapping self-chosen Traditional Water Systems, students gather knowledge for their graduation project that is directly (as an intervention location) or indirectly (as insights on designing with water) linked to the design they make. Graduates of the Circular Water Stories design laboratory made the video Circular Water Stories Worldwide.

Header image: Artificial water lines (‘opgeleide beek’) of the Sprengen system guided along the contour lines of the relief - a traditional water system at the Veluwe in the Netherlands. Photo by Yunshu Jiang.

More information

The graduation laboratory Circular Water Stories is part of the graduate 'Flowscapes' studio of the Landscape Architecture master track at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (TU Delft). The video is made in collaboration with the students of AR3LA031 Graduation CWS labs (2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021) - master track of Landscape Architecture.

Watch the video here.

For more information about this research, please contact Associate Professor Dr. Ir. Inge Bobbink.