The crisis facing Tunisian drainage tunnels: identification, analysis and evaluation of water heritage in the Mediterranean region

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

In regions with Mediterranean and steppe climates, the presence of surface water is sporadic, and a unique – but fragile and undervalued – element of water capture for irrigation and human supply is the ‘qanats’, ‘foggaras’, ‘mkoulas’ or water tunnels. The central objective of this project has been the full study of Tunisia's drainage tunnels. The inventory, analysis and heritage evaluation of Tunisia's ‘qanats’ have been possible through the application of a particular methodology during four annual sessions of fieldwork and analysis in the geographic information system (GIS) laboratory. The results have been: the creation of a spatial data and cartography infrastructure for the Tunisian ‘qanats’ and related irrigation systems; the identification of drainage tunnels; the typological classification of the water tunnels according to their morphological and structural framework; analysis of conservation status and intended water use; the implementation of a multi-criteria evaluation method with regard to the heritage quality of the ‘qanats’; and finally an analysis of the landscape relationships between ‘qanats’ and oases.

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