Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jazlyn from San Diego, CA. Jazlyn Wonders, “Where does water come from?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jazlyn!
After a quick after-school snack and a few minutes of homework, you head outside to enjoy the nice weather with your friends. An impromptu soccer game breaks out and you play until you're a sweaty mess.
As dusk approaches, you head inside thirsty and dirty. You probably don't give it a second thought when you turn the tap to pour a cold glass of water or enjoy a nice hot shower. In the modern world, most of us are spoiled by the fact that clean water is just a turn of the tap away.
Long ago, however, that was not the case. Water has always been and will always be the lifeblood of a society. As ancient civilizations began to develop, access to clean water was always a primary concern.
How could ancient cities with primitive sewer systems ensure that their citizens had adequate fresh drinking water? How could they provide uncontaminated water for agricultural use? The answer to these questions turned out to be the aqueduct.
When most people hear the word "aqueduct," the image that comes to mind is of a large structure resembling a trestle that might carry automobiles or trains. Instead, such man-made structures were conduits for transporting water.
Those architectural gems we think of as aqueducts were used to carry water across large hollows or valleys. However, they were only a small, visible portion of a true aqueduct, which is a large system consisting of many elements, such as pipes, canals, ditches, tunnels, and other supporting structures to carry water from a source to a distribution point far away.
The ancient Romans are widely-recognized as the greatest aqueduct builders of the ancient world. However, they were not the first to build aqueducts. Other systems had been built hundreds of years earlier in places like Egypt, Persia, and India.
Ancient Rome's aqueduct system was quite elaborate. It remains one of the great engineering feats in history. Over the course of five centuries, the Romans built 11 aqueducts that brought water into the city from as much as 57 miles away.
Only a small portion of Rome's aqueducts crossed valleys on impressive stone arches. Most of the systems consisted of underground tunnels made of stone and terracotta pipes. Some parts of these systems are still in use today.
Aqueducts are far from a thing of the past. Modern aqueduct systems carry more water farther distances than the ancient Romans could've ever dreamed of. For example, New York City's water supply comes from three primary aqueduct systems that can carry almost two billion gallons of water each day.
The longest aqueduct system in the world can be found in California. The northern part of the state gets more rain than the heavily-populated southern part of the state. The California Aqueduct carries over 650 million gallons of water a distance of over 440 miles each day.