Qanãts: Best Way to Reach Water
A sloping channel under the ground which transport water from the wells to the surface is what Iranians call Kariz or Qanat (Iranian aqueduct). In other words, a qanat is constructed by a chain of wells (similar to shafts) that are connected together by a gentle sloping. It has been an ancient way in arid areas to reach the underground water for drinking, irrigation, etc.
The point for drilling wells was definitely selected in a watery area. In this case, the specialists would reach the water after digging a few meters (usually 10 to 15 meters). At a distance of a few meters (about 20 meters) from the first well (mother well), the second one was dug with a lower height considered not to reach the water, because the first well should have been connected to the second. Few wells were drilled every 20 to 25 meters and were connected to each other sloping from the mother well to the one closest to the surface. The connection of all the wells to the mother well was done in the last stage so that water would not flow in them during their drilling and would not prevent the drilling operation. The canal, then, could last for many kilometers until it reaches the ground. The slope of the ground and the depth of the mother well determine the length of the canal. The lower the groundwater level, the deeper the mother well. The point where water appears on the earth’s surface is the best place to store water which usually has 5 meters depth.
Having done the Qanat, the water either is stored in Ab-Anbar or channeled to a special building called Yakhchãl.
Why Keeping Water Reservoir in the Ground?
For Iranians, the next stage after creating the Qanat, was to store water for all seasons, because most of the Qanats were dug far from the city center and native people had no access to them. The heat evaporated water on the surface of the earth and the open air polluted the water. That’s why people were provoked by the thought of storing water in the ground which eventually resulted in creating a “water reservoir.”
Ab-Anbar and its Influence on Native Culture and Lifestyle
Water reservoirs have dramatically impacted on the indigenous culture of hot and dry areas. We have witnessed an extraordinary connection between water and rituals. In addition, researches also show that groundwater storage is rooted in the ancient civilizations of Iran and Egypt. As an instance, Choghaznabil (Khuzestan Province) is region with the oldest example of a water reservoir dating back to the second millennium BC.
Furthermore, the architecture of Yazd water reservoirs, on the one hand, expresses the identity of its inhabitants and, is considered a social, economic and civilization element, on the other hand. In ancient Yazd, for example, there is the evidence of proximity of water reservoirs to Zoroastrian fire temples in the center of neighborhoods; in post-Islamic period, you can see this coexistence with mosques. In addition to its main role as water storage, reservoirs were also influential factors in the formation of urban fabric and the accumulation of people in the same area.
Since water has always been valuable in Iranian culture and “Anahita”, the goddess of water, has a high position, Zoroastrianism has emphasized on keeping water clean. The same belief later appeared in Islam which asserts that water is the spring of life. That is why a large number of Yazd reservoirs were built or endowed (a long-standing tradition in which people give their money or land to a particular person or place and take the benefits from it to a specific purpose) by Zoroastrians.
In the past, most people who built or endowed a building or an Ab Anbar had no children (sons in specific). In this way, they could keep their name remembered for several generations. In other words, it can be said that people considered the construction or endowment of the water reservoir to be equivalent to the continuation of that person’s generation. Examples of these kinds are Ali Akbar Reservoir in Meybod (Yazd Province), Bibi Fatemeh Golshan Reservoir and Haji Tayebeh Reservoir in Yazd city.
Nature of Water Reservoir
Water reservoirs are ponds or indoor pools that are usually built to store water underground in cities, villages, forts, caravan routes (Caravanserais), and in the heart of the mountains. This made it easier to access water during the drought days, the siege by the enemy, and the use of cool water in summer days.
The significance of Ab-Anbar in Different Periods
During the Qajar period, agriculture was of great importance, therefore, many reservoirs were built during this period. Despite the advent of modernism during the reign of Reza Pahlavi, many merchants and traders were still looking for an opportunity to build and endow water reservoirs. Many of these reservoirs continued to flourish and were active until 1970. Perhaps one of the reasons for people’s interest in building and endowing water reservoirs is the preservation of the ancient culture and customs, avoiding the emergence of machine life.
What Is a Water Reservoir Made of?
Reservoirs were often made of bricks and sometimes stone (example: water reservoirs in Chak Chak (Yazd Province), the Zoroastrian shrine). They also used bricks to cover other parts including the stairs. However, the materials employed, varied according to the different parts of the reservoir. For example, lime was used for the tank wall, a mixture of ash, sand and lime was used to lay the bricks and seal the building and prevent the water from rotting.
The most difficult part of building a water reservoir is the dome-shaped roof over the tank, because the architect must be able to build a roof with of15 meters height without employing iron and concrete.
Wind Catcher and its Role in Water Reservoirs
Wind catchers (Badgir) in various forms played a major role in cooling water reservoirs as well as homes. They has a column and above it there are 1 to 8 sided valves. Inside these valves, thin blades divide the interior space of the wind catcher into several vertical sections to draw the wind in, from the outside and bring it to the surface of the tank water. After touching water, the cold wind directs the hot air collected under the roof out of the tank through other wind catchers or valves above the roof. In this way, the wind catchers or Badgirs flow the air in the tank. In the reservoirs without wind catchers, they created one or more holes on the roof, usually in the form of a hemisphere, to make a natural ventilator so as to prevent water from decaying.
Due to the importance of wind catchers in air conditioning, most water reservoirs enjoyed having one to four Badgirs to cool the water.
In Yazd province, there are more than 100 urban water reservoirs with the special architectural features of their time and era.
Being a multi-religious city (especially Islam and Zoroastrianism) in Yazd city, most of the water reservoirs had two separate openings for the use of Muslims and other religions.
There is a possibility to have Qanat walking tour in some seasons .