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Main Conclusions - International Conference on Ancestral Hydrotechnologies

Updated: Mar 30, 2023


50 specialists from 21 countries and different fields of knowledge, met in Barcelona, from 16 to 17 February 2023, in the International Conference "Ancestral Hydro-technologies as a Response to Climate, Health and Food Emergencies. Good Practices in the Mediterranean and in Latin America and the Caribbean”.


Download the Final Programme: Here

Press Release: Here

Main Conclusions: Here

Main Conferences (Videos): Here



29 good practices were presented on the hybrid conference (virtual and in person, at Campus Nord UPC, Barcelona), that brought together water professionals, water institutions, national and local authorities and academia to discuss the potential of ancestral hydro-technologies as integrated solutions for adaptation and transformation of the territories.


The conference was hosted by the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability of the Polytechnical University of Catalonia (UPC) and co-convened by the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO and the Global Network of Water Museums (a flagship Initiative of UNESCO-IHP). It was supported by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITERD) of Spain, the Dept. of External Action of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Barcelona City Council and MedCites.


The main conclusions were presented after a participative broad discussion during the 2 days meeting, with the title "Ancestral Hydrotechnologies: Knowledge from the past responding to present and future challenges".


The value and the potential of ancestral hydrotechnologies to respond to the current global emergencies (climate, biodiversity, water scarcity, health and food) have been recognized and substantially documented, through evidence from best practices and case studies
  • Ancestral hydrotechnologies have a low energy, resources and carbon footprint, and can be instrumental to preserve and restore biodiversity and strengthening ecosystem services’ provision. Moreover, ancestral hydrotechnologies can serve for adapting to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

  • Ancestral hydrotechnologies are based and inspired by nature, coupling traditional knowledge and management of ecosystems, therefore ancestral hydrotechnologies can be fully considered as nature-based solutions.

  • Ancestral hydrotechnologies should be considered not only as historical infrastructures and cultural heritage, but as models for sustainable water management for the present and the future, and can be further enhanced by using the latest innovation and technologies from social, ecological and engineering disciplines.

  • Ancestral hydrotechnologies serve for the further integration of WEFE NEXUS at local and regional scale for their transfunctionality, and contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Many ancestral hydrotechnologies have the full potential to be recovered and/or scaled up to contribute to the transformative change needed for responding to the global challenges in the wide framework of sustainable development.

In order to fully enable the scale up ancestral hydrotechnologies, we need:


-Multi-level governance both to harmonize national policies with local practices and to integrate sectorial policies on climate, water, energy, food, biodiversity, health, urban and rural development, among others.


-Legal frameworks for the recognition, protection and preservation of existing ancestral hydrotechnologies, under threat of loss and disappearance.


-Capacity building for policy and decision makers at local and national levels, practitioners, researchers and local authorities and communities, for the theoretical and operational development of ancestral hydrotechnologies.


-Multidisciplinary research, including low and high technology integration and interdisciplinary exchange of scientific knowledge, including socio-cultural and traditional knowledge; also recognizing the value of eco-museums;


-Awareness raising and advocacy to raise the understanding of the value and impact of ancestral hydrotechnologies for resilience transition;


-Financial resources and capacities for the development and implementation of large-scale demonstrators for transformative change;


-International network of networks for knowledge brokerage on ancestral hydrotechnologies, including the development of project proposals and implementation.


Finally, we commit to establish a Community of Practice (CoP) composed of experts from different research centres, including the UNESCO Water Family, that will collaborate on research, development and implementation of ancestral hydrotechnologies, also in liaison with the IHP´s flagship initiative WAMUNET, through its inventory of best practices and knowledge dissemination mechanisms.

Ancestral Hydrotechnologies:
Building the world heritage of the future







Throughout history, ancestral civilizations designed and built sophisticated water systems based on the natural hydrological cycle. These "Hydrotechnologies" provided an adaptive response to cope with issues such as water conservation, irrigation or flood and drought control, but also with biodiversity conservation and local/regional sustainable development. Good examples of this type of systems, some of them still in use today, can be found all over the world: the Zenú Channels or "camellones" in Colombia, the Incas Hydraulic Wonders in Peru and the Persian Qanat in Iran, to name a few.


These ancestral Hydro-technologies can be analyzed from a present-day viewpoint to assess their viability as appropriate technologies in a global climate, health and food emergency context. If properly managed, these technologies could become an effective solution for adaptation and inclusion as multifunctional tools for diffuse pollution management, food and health security, flood and drought control, ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation and economic development, among others.




For inquiries, contact the following mail: brent.villanueva@upc.edu.




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