3.3.2. Diverse and sometimes hidden stakeholders

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

Pont du Gard aqueduct in France
Pont du Gard aqueduct in France by Benh LIEU SONG, CC BY-SA 3.0

If water itself is an actor, what are the implications of not seeing it? The Pont du Gard aqueduct, in the photograph above, is a well-known example of a very visible and attractive water work. This means that it is easier to reach consensus among different stakeholders about the importance of preserving it. However, not all water works are so lucky.

The following excerpt is taken from the abstract of Silent and Unseen: Stewardship of Water Infrastructural Heritage, an article by Meisha Hunter Burkett:

“Historic waterworks, including aqueducts and sewers, are civil engineering achievements with unique heritage management challenges. Often designed to be silent and unseen, the subgrade and inaudible infrastructure that delivers water and removes waste is frequently ignored by the public unless it stops working. Although these systems can benefit from official designation as heritage, they are infrequently given this benefit, as the water and wastewater management community that is responsible for them often remains disconnected from the heritage management community.” (Hunter Burkett, 2020: 21).


According to the author, underground infrastructure is difficult to preserve because it is invisible, expensive and not part of a larger system. How do you think this might complicate their preservation? Do you know of any examples? Share your thoughts in the forum below.

Read the section entitled What Is Water Infrastructural Heritage? (pages 22-25) to find out more on underground water infrastructures. You can find it at: Meisha Hunter Burkett (2020) Silent and Unseen: Stewardship of Water Infrastructural Heritage. In: Hein C. (eds) Adaptive Strategies for Water Heritage. Springer, Cham.

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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.
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