Medieval Moorish water channel of the dye garden

arab water channel - before | after

Arab water channel – before | after

The colour garden of the artist residence CASAdelDRAGON is located in the district of Cervera del Maestre (Castellon, Spain). The village with the castle on top of the hill was under Iberic, Roman, Moorish and Catalan influence and is full of medieval monuments and historic places.

The colour garden is connected to a Roman water channel system, developed and optimized by the Moors in the time of their occupation in Southern Europe. Therefore it is also connected to a wide and great history – of Spain in detail and Europe in general – including the influence of Arabian knowledge, technology and culture.

The left photo shows the original situation in winter 2013, the photo on the right shows the current process of rebuilding the channel. We would like to say thanks to Sonia, Anna-Maria, Katharina, Sarah and all the other wwoofers who started to rebuild this ancient water pipeline.

The wild land of the garden and even the medieval channel were abandoned over years. The water broke out of the channel. The soil erosion was supported by roots of trees that had seeded themselves.

European history would be incomplete if we neglected the long experience of Arab and Islamic influence in Spain and Southern France: a lot of knowledge about architecture, art, culture and science in general.

The impressive water management for gardening contributed to a flourishing of agriculture  in Spain, and thus to a significant growth of the Spanish population. Imagine that there lived so many people in the country at that time, that, after the expulsion of the Moors, Spain needed more than 550 years to reach the same population again.

Imagine too, that the Arab influence had a stable period of more than 780 years, it is like being ruled by one administration from Dschingis Khan to Putin…

Especially in these times of conficts between the Middle East and Europe, it might be good to remember the common roots. Spain will play an important role for Europe in the future and will help to ensure a peaceful coexistence.


arab water channel - source

Arab water channel – source

The channel was reponsible for the irrigation of the whole valley (the lightl blue line from the higher level of the valley on the left to the lower level on the right). The colour garden plot – marked green in the map above – is centered at the bottom of the valley. The water channel enters the plot with a lowering surface – marked with a dark blue dot. The water is stored several times  in such basins (as on the right photo) on the way down out of the valley. This helps to reduce the flow rate.

Later the channel will pass the plot in its center and will give access to water in all lower levels of the garden for the future – as it was planned 800 years ago.


arab water channel - source point in the leaf - before cleaning

Arab water channel – source point in the leaf – before cleaning

The garden design is adapted to the water channel and the valley. The beginning of the leaf is also the source of water for the plot. The veins of the leaf transport food and water. The paths in the garden will be used in the same way. We will bring water and compost, and we will take out the gifts of the garden using the same ways.

From nature and fluid mechanics we know, that 45 degree is the best angle for a connection of two channels. So the design copies nature and also gives a symbolic view of the target to synchronize cultural and natural processes to get sustainable results.


arab water channel - after cleaning from plants and trees

Arab water channel – after cleaning from plants and trees

In the European Union 40% of water is consumed by nuclear and conventional power plants. 25% is used by agriculture. If a citizen uses less than 1000 cubic meters per year,  this considered as a good result.

Referring to aquastat database the cultivated area of Spain is less than 40% of the total country area. The main irrigated crops are cereals (36 percent), fruit (23 percent, including citrus and grapes), olives (15 percent) and vegetables (7 percent). Some fodder (temporary and permanent), sugar beet, cotton, sunflower, potatoes, pulses, flowers, tobacco and permanent pastures are also irrigated. Temporary crops are either winter crops (irrigated during dry periods from November to April or May) or summer crops (4 to 6 months from March to October). Permanent crops are assumed to be irrigated almost the whole year, either for water deficit in dry periods or for frost protection in winter/spring.

The Spanish agriculture sector uses more water than the industrial and public sector together. In this light it is one of the main tasks for us to figure out a smart water management system on our plot and optimize the usage.

We need many more helpers to continue the task. At the moment we are happy to clean the distance of one meter per day (1-3 persons) and we have still 100 meters to go. If you are interested in joining the group of helpers apply here.