Valens Aqueduct in Istanbul
Valens Aqueduct in Istanbul

Engaging with Istanbul's Water Heritage

Sustainable solutions for increasing knowledge and public awareness
2 May 2022
Project type

This project explores the potential of Istanbul's historical water heritage as a driver of sustainable solutions to contemporary and future challenges regarding water supply and use. It focuses primarily on increasing knowledge about the tangible and intangible remains of Istanbul's rich and multilayered water heritage and on activating this heritage in order to increase public awareness of both historical and contemporary water issues in an urban environment.

Related project

Source of Life: Water Management in the Premodern Middle East

Source of Life: Water Management in the Premodern Middle East

The Source of Life project combines historical and archaeological evidence to explore the interrelationship between water installations, governance, and legal and cultural frameworks within five Middle Eastern cities (the 7th-15th centuries).



  • Engaging with Istanbul’s Water Heritage: Exploring Sustainable Ways to Create Public Awareness (22 September 2022 - Dutch Consulate General  – Istanbul – Turkey).

This workshop started from the assumption that the 'biography' of Istanbul's 1,500 year old water supply system can raise public awareness of current and future challenges related to water supply and use and can be an engine for sustainable development. The participants,  NGOs, and representatives from the heritage sector and creative industry from both Turkey and the Netherlands, came up with recommendations for workable and sustainable initiatives to increase public awareness of water supply and use through knowledge of and interaction with Istanbul’s water heritage. Organised together with the Netherlands Institute in Turkey.

Video impression of the workshop: Engaging with Istanbul’s Water Heritage Workshop in Istanbul 22.9.2022 (

  • Water Heritage Istanbul (6-7 June 2024, Dutch Consulate-General  – Istanbul – Turkey). With participants from ISKI (Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration) and Waternet Amsterdam. Organised together with the Netherlands Institute in Turkey.


  • The multi-layered history of the Valens Aqueduct in Constantinople / Istanbul’ (23 June 2022, Workshop Aqueducts, canals, qanats - construction and management of water conduits in the late antique and medieval periods, Source of Life Project, Radboud University Nijmegen)

  • ‘Revitalizing Istanbul’s Water Heritage. Sustainable solutions for increasing knowledge and public engagement’ (20 March 2023, UN Conference official side event Water and Heritage: Connecting Past, Present and Future, organized by ICOMOS (ISC Water and Heritage, NL and US), the UNESCO Chair on Water, Ports and Historic Cities, the engineering firm Witteveen+Bos and the Water Authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht (AGV), and supported by the Union of Water Boards, The Netherlands, the Icomos International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH), the Icomos Sustainable Development Goals Working Group (SDGWG), Harlem Stage, New York)
  • ‘Water Heritage in Istanbul. Voorstellen voor het duurzaam revitaliseren van het Valens aquaduct’ (14 April 2023, bijeenkomst Netwerk WaterHeritage, Waternet Amsterdam 14-4-2023)
  • ‘Istanbul’s Water Supply: History and Heritage’ (8 January 2024, The Archaeology of Irrigation Technology and Water Management in the Islamic World conference, 7-10 January 2024, Bahrain National Museum, Kingdom of Bahrain)
  • 'Proposals for Public Engagement with Istanbul's Water Heritage' (6 June 2024, workshop Water Heritage IstanbulDutch Consulate General  – Istanbul – Turkey) 


  • NIT URBAN HERITAGE LAB - Water Heritage for Sustainable Cities - Online Lectures & Classes | Istanbul 3-days Field Trip  (September-December 2022)

A course organized by the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (NIT), in collaboration with LDE Centre for Global Heritage and Development, Radboud University, Middle East Technical University (METU) and the Netherlands Consulate-General in Istanbul.

The course addressed past experiences and current and future challenges of urban water supply. Scholars and experts from the Netherlands and Turkey (both countries with a rich past in terms of water-related developments) discussed historical and contemporary topics, and the participants investigated the material and immaterial history and aspects of the ancient Valens Aqueduct in today's Istanbul. Originally built in the fourth century as part of "the longest Roman waterway", it underwent many transformations over the centuries and lost its original function. In a group assignment, the participants developed  proposals for action for the re-valorization of this multi-layered water heritage object, focusing on sustainable development and/or increasing public awareness of contemporary and future water issues.


  • (Forthcoming 2025) ‘Istanbul’s Water Supply: History and Heritage’ in Rachel MacLean, Timothy Insoll and Salman Almahari (eds.), The Archaeology of Irrigation Technology and Water Management in the Islamic World Archaeopress (Oxford, UK)


  • Water Memories Walking App 

This project (May-December 2024) aims to develop a self-guided walking tour dedicated to Istanbul’s rich and multi-layered water heritage. Revealing the hidden stories linked to water culture through a thematic digital memory tour consisting of textual, visual and aural information will raise awareness among a large audience of the environmental and cultural heritage of Istanbul as well as of present-day challenges of urban water supply in times of water crisis. Besides, the project intends to increase awareness about the city’s religious and ethnic minorities, and their contribution to and relationship with water supply and water management. The project will use research data and conceptual approaches developed at VU and Radboud University, and will work with the Istanbul-based Netherlands Institute in Turkey and the Hrant Dink Foundation. The aim is to have the walk online by the end of the year.

This project is a partnership of VU, NIT, Radboud University (Mariëtte Verhoeven), and the Hrant Dink Foundation funded through a Vrije Universiteit Connected World Social Impact Award.

  • (Forthcoming October 2024)  Episode 8 of The Abbasid History Podcast:  ‘The Great Valens Aqueduct of Constantinople/ Istanbul’

Speaker: Mariëtte Verhoeven – Interviewer: Edmund Hayes 

You can find the episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.


The granting of an Embassy Science Fellowship from NWO - in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - in 2022 marked the start of this project. With this fellowship, Mariëtte Verhoeven spent three months for research at the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul and the Netherlands Institute in Turkey. 


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