3.2.2. Valuing Water

Course subject(s) 3. Fish out of water: Who makes water systems?

Stakeholders involved in water as a system or a heritage object

Last module, we talked about the history of your water system. Just because a system or an object has a history, this does not make it heritage. We need stakeholders to value water as such. In this text, we assess the stakeholders who are active in the heritage world, and how they relate to other stakeholders in water management. Traditional water systems depended on the everyday use and regular maintenance of local communities and institutions. Stakeholders of water systems in the past were the people who used the water, who built and maintained the systems: from the judges on the water tribunal in Valencia to the millers living in the Dutch windmills. As the regular use of these traditional water systems was phased out, the question arose of what to do with them. Some considered the objects or systems redundant, while others saw them as something they had inherited from previous generations and therefore deserved to be protected.

While first heritage protection was mainly left to local organizations, in 1964 a global agreement, the “Venice Charter”, gave rise to an international movement to protect monuments. In 1972, UNESCO started its World Heritage program. Since then, conservation of monuments and their surroundings is safeguarded on many levels, from the international (UNESCO, ICOMOS) to the local (municipalities, private organizations). This new group of stakeholders created regulations and developed tools for the protection and preservation of (water) heritage sites. Industrialization and modernization in the 1960s made these institutions and regulations even more important –think, for example, of the motorways in inner cities that Carola mentioned in her video. They were a crucial force in negotiating the historical value of city systems that had grown over centuries.

Nowadays, most heritage institutions still focus on preserving historical sites. This, however, often opposes their interests to those of planners, designers, and policymakers who want to implement changes in line with contemporary and future needs and interests. Different academic disciplines are involved in this seeming contradiction between water management and water heritage. The concept of living history the importance of the past for the future, is rarely seen. Only recently have academics, heritage institutions, and water organizations started to come together to discuss the importance of connecting water & heritage. An example is the creation of an International Scientific Committee (ISC) by ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites on the topic of water and heritage.

Water systems are inherently dynamic, constantly changing, and evolving. It demands heritage professionals to embrace this changing nature, and water professionals to recognize history as an inherent quality of present-day water systems. By embracing both their past and present developments, the preservation of water landscapes can contribute to their sustainable management.

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Water Works: Activating Heritage for Sustainable Development by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/water-works-activating-heritage-for-sustainable-development//
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