Sources of Water in Ancient Mesopotamia

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A lot changes with the passing of time, especially when thousands of years are involved. One thing that remains unchanged, however, is water's status as the most vital nutrient to humans. The people of ancient Mesopotamia were highly fortunate in that they were sandwiched between two sizable rivers.

Two Rivers for Water Supplies

The name "Mesopotamia" denotes an area in the middle of two rivers, and that was true of the region. Mesopotamia was situated conveniently between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers -- also known as the twin rivers. The two rivers not only served as plentiful sources of water, but they also made for extremely lush flat lands, both of which were beneficial for farming. The Mesopotamians were nothing if not appreciative for the abundant water, as they worshiped their trusty rivers. Water even had its own god, named Enki. The Euphrates River was a little over 1,700 miles in length, while the Tigris River was a bit shorter at approximately 1,200 miles.

Canals as Water Sources

Canals in Mesopotamia were also common sources of water. Canals, along with the two rivers, were actually were predominant water supplies in Mesopotamia for a lengthy period of time, all the way into the first millennium B.C.

Water Retrieved From Wells

Numerous palaces in Mesopotamia received their water not from rivers or canals, but instead from wells of considerable depth. This was particularly prevalent in Assyria, a kingdom in the northern region of Mesopotamia. These wells were thought to be beneficial in that they were devoid of contamination. Canals and rivers were employed for many things beyond water access, whether travel or economic activity. The threat of waste water making its way into the rivers and canals was also problematic.

Flooding of the Rivers

The Euphrates and Tigris rivers flooded from time to time. This was actually was helpful in that it delivered valuable nourishment to the dirt in the lowlands right by the rivers. This enhanced farming in the area, hence the nickname "fertile crescent." The headwaters for both rivers are in Armenia.


Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images