AN ancient islamic waterway in the Sierra Nevada built by Muslim peasant farmers more than a thousand years ago is being restored.

The project is led by a team from the University of Granada with hefty EU funding and comes amid increasing water supply issues in Spain.

The irrigation system located high in the Sierra Nevada mountains begins 1,800 metres above sea level and  for centuries provided water to the small village of Cañar.

But it fell into disuse in the 1980s following continuous depopulation.

Jose Maria Martin Civantos, an archaeology professor at the university and leader of the project said: “The Islamic agricultural revolution was the first green revolution. They brought together techniques and knowledge about water, soil, plants and also how snow behaves. They transformed the way water is used in the Mediterranean.”

Sierra Nevada Cc 2
Muslim conquerors have provided an ancient solution to a very modern problem.
Photo: Creative commons licence.

The ancient system works by utilising a trickle-down effect by controlling the flow of the water, allowing it to be absorbed into the land.

MemoLab – the organisation from the university that is working on the project – has restored some of the system and it now irrigates the university’s gardens.

The project was made more challenging by the fact that the method used by the Islamic conquerors was never written down. 

“Due to the Catholic reconquest of Islamic Spain and the expulsion of the Muslim population early in the 17th century, much of this knowledge was lost,” the university said.

It is not known when the waterway will be fully operational to provide for the public water supply. 


Subscribe to the Olive Press


  1. Hmmm, that’s interesting? But it seems this particular archaeology professor skipped class the day that they explained about Roman aqueducts, indoor plumbing, public baths and even sewage systems, all in place centuries before the Muslims invaded Hispania…

    Location : Marbella

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.