Traditional Knowledge for a Sustainable Management of Water Resources: The “Cuniculi” Of Tuscania

  • Lorenzo Caponetti Università della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy
  • Maria Nicolina Ripa Università della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy


Water management is today one of the most relevant issues across the world, and not only for developing countries or in areas affected by processes of desertification. In developed countries which are responsible for most part of freshwater consumption, the awareness about this concern drives towards the search for the best solutions and practices for a sustainable use of water. Modern technologies can help achieving this goal, but at the same time there is a lot to learn from past solutions that have proved to work on a long term basis. Etruscan cuniculi are underground water tunnels that were dug in bedrocks for land reclaiming, drainage or water collection. A research conducted in Tuscany – a region of central Italy- focused on both archaeological as well as functional aspects of cuniculi.
Such a research was carried out by making comparisons between similar devices used in different countries across the Mediterranean area, the Middle East and Central Asia. The research pointed out not merely the various connections that cuniculi have due to man settling and land taming, but also the principles upon which these kind of devices are working in order to provide man with water, notably the increase of exchange surface between the underground and the surface ground, the gravity-driven movement of water and the combination of a multiplicity of small water sources like seeping or condensation.
The research has found out that density in the sample area is more than three times higher the figures reported in the specific literature and also brought up the numerous connections these kind of devices have, at present days, with the agricultural landscape which still function as infra-structures.

The research also pointed out the great number of cuniculi which still today serve their ancestral goal they were dug for several centuries ago: something which seems to rely upon the continuous maintenance carried out across the ages by different populations and a great sign of sustainability resulting from these solutions. Starting from this great example of symbiosis between man and environment, the paper will talk about the extent the cuniculi today can represent a valuable tool for a sustainable water management and how the principles upon which they are inspired and work along can be a valid option even when planning and building 21st century water systems.

How to Cite
CAPONETTI, Lorenzo; RIPA, Maria Nicolina. Traditional Knowledge for a Sustainable Management of Water Resources: The “Cuniculi” Of Tuscania. Plurimondi, [S.l.], n. 8, oct. 2017. ISSN 2420-921X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 sep. 2023.