This activity is suitable for students aged 7 to 8 years old. The activity focuses on the conservation of natural water resources and presents existing water management practices that have been passed down for centuries through our history and culture. The students are required to: stop the rainwater runoff collected in a cistern from becoming polluted, protect an aqueduct from attacking ‘monsters’, deliver a water bucket from a ‘spiera’ to the thirsty knight through a maze, and drill shafts to enable water to flow from a spring gallery. Although the setting for this game is mostly local, here the students are taught about rainwater harvesting and the importance of harvesting this natural resource.
This is a very old technique of transferring groundwater through the opening of slightly inclined tunnel and a series of vertical aeration shafts. This technique was invented in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago and subsequently spread throughout the Mediterranean countries.
To open the mina the workers used to dig a test borehole and if they would find groundwater, they would then start digging horizontally. The main tunnel would have a channel with a slight incline so that water can move towards the exit, by force of gravity. The height of the tunnel used to be enough for a worker to be able to stand and move inside it. Farmers used to plant crops in stepped terraces beyond the exit of these tunnels.
One such example is the underground water gallery of Wied il-Bużbież on the way to Baħrija, which is the longest of these underground tunnel branches. These galleries are a true testament to our ancestors’ ingenuity which date back to the time of the knights and most probably even dating to the Arab period.
Wignacourt Aqueduct was the result of the need to bring fresh water to the newly built city of Valletta. The city of Valletta had a lot of people at the time in it; builders and knights and they all needed water to survive, so a need was felt to construct something that can bring water to the new city that was being built.
It was Grand Master Martino Garzes who first considered the idea of the building of an aqueduct to convey water to Valletta, however the project was not carried out due financial considerations. Eventually it was Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt that brought up the idea once again. The first part of the project took place in the Qlejgħa Valley area where underground tunnels led water towards Attard. During the second phase of the building of the aqueduct Maltese master masons helped built the aqueduct that finally led water into Valletta in 1615.
This Wignacourt Fountain, built in 1615, was originally situated just inside the City Gate. Later on, it was moved from there and nowadays one can find it on the side of the St. James Cavalier building. This fountain was restored in 1986 by Din l-Art Helwa.
The fountain consists of a stone basin into which a head of a lion spouts water, with two interlocking sea shells surrounded by a garland of flowers. It bears the coat-of-arms of Grand Master Wignacourt and of the Order of St John. On the lower part there is a radiating sun with the motto “Omnibus Idem” meaning “everyone is the same”.
The Wignacourt Water Tower
The Wignacourt Water Tower, a fine buttressed tower found in Floriana near Argotti Gardens, is part of the Wignacourt Aqueduct system from Rabat to Valletta. It was built to mark the completion and commemorates the inauguration of the aqueduct and the arrival of freshwater to Valletta by Grandmaster Alof de Wignacourt on April 21, 1615.
The Tower is a stone structure with a three metre high circular pedestal which contains a fountain within a pedestal that has the mouth of a lion’s head spouting water into a semi-octagonal basin below which was used as a drinking trough for horses. The rounded tower above is supported by pilasters and the structure is topped by a floral stone sculpture. The water tower also contains siphons for cleaning impurities from the water. The front of the pedestal is decorated with the coat of arms of the Order of St. John and the personal arms of Alof de Wignacourt.
A reservoir is a store of water. Within Malta’s water supply network these are typically built out of stone on hilltops around Malta, Gozo and Comino to store potable water before it reaches our homes. Water is typically pumped from underground galleries, boreholes, or seawater reverse osmosis plants up to these reservoirs using pumps. Water then flows out of these reservoirs through pipes down the hill to our homes. Agricultural reservoirs can also be seen around the rural areas of Malta, where farmers store water for irrigation. These are typically filled with water pumped from the groundwater, from rainwater captured from rooftops or roads or wastewater which has been treated to a good quality.
Galleries and pumping Stations
In the time of our great-great-grandparents, an ingenious way of capturing groundwater which lies within rock formations in Malta, Gozo and Comino was thought of. Long tunnels, known as galleries, were dug by hand deep underground where freshwater can be found in large quantities. These galleries which stretch along large parts of Malta and Gozo usually start from a deep hole in the centre, which we call a sump, and extend out of the sump like spokes from the centre of a wheel. Groundwater flows from the porous rock into these galleries and then into the sump in the centre. Water is then pumped up from the sump using large electric pumps to the surface where water flows through pipes to reservoirs for storage before eventually reaching our homes. The building and facilities above these sumps are known as pumping stations and can be found in various localities in Malta, Gozo and Comino. The Water Services Corporation operates 12 such pumping stations in Malta with a combined length of more than 40 km and 2 pumping stations in Gozo.