Skip to main content

Water Distribution Systems

With co-awardee Asma Bachich from Morocco, PhD student Mohammad Daud Hamidi has been awarded a prestigious UNESCO Silk Roads Youth Research Grant to study the “The Shared Heritage of Water Management and Allocation along the Silk Roads”. The project is just one of twelve selected out of a total of 800 proposals from around the world, from postgraduate researchers aged 35 and younger.

Daud and Asma’s research focuses on the Karez or Qanats, an innovative and sustainable water technology that emerged in Persia and travelled alongside the silk road network to different parts of the world — in the Middle East, around the Mediterranean, and even in west China. Although its exact history and origin are disputable, the Karez system is believed to be a Persian innovation and has been in use in what is now Iran for thousands of years. 

The Karez are subterranean tunnels excavated in order to transport large volumes of water from springs or water sources from upland areas to the dry, arid plains below. The tunnels can extend for tens of kilometers and require careful planning and construction.  Although the similarities shared across these water distribution systems in different parts of the world have been studied from a technical and engineering point of view, the shared management practices of these systems have not been considered. Daud and Asma’s work will explore the transfer of water management practices from a social, institutional and management perspective, investigating the way in which management models and water allocation guidelines were adapted to the communities that implemented the technology. 

The UNESCO Silk Roads Programme is at and 2021 winners can be found at