Sustainable Water Management in Santorini
Laura Kenny (M.R.P. '17) spent her summer working in historic rainwater harvesting cisterns for an interdisciplinary project on sustainable water management in Santorini, Greece.
With the help of grants from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Cornell Institute for European Studies, Kenny traveled to Santorini to work on the project with Professor Gail Holst-Warhaff of the Institute for European Studies and Professor Tammo Steenhuis of the Department for Biological and Environmental Engineering, as well as a group of five students from other departments across Cornell. The project's aim was to study the rainwater harvesting cisterns and undertake an assessment on reusing cisterns for future water storage and/or rainwater collection and to increase awareness of rainwater harvesting potential at the community level.
Historically, buildings on the arid island were constructed with water collection systems and holding cisterns for rainwater that was used for drinking, bathing, cooking, and recreation. This method was sufficient in providing enough water for the island's needs, but, as tourism increased, desalination plants largely replaced the historic rainwater harvesting cisterns, causing many to fall into disrepair.
The research group worked with the Santorini Water Board to examine several cisterns on the island for potential reuse. "The work required us to climb down into the cisterns to inspect for structural issues, learn about the history and community surrounding each cistern, and research historical water use practices," said Kenny.
Using her research, Kenny's final project creates a "Water Walk" to provide the local residents and tourists with an understanding of water use on the island of Santorini, and to encourage more sustainable practices. Her final project includes a list of recommendations for additional water walk sites, an interactive map, and signage for posting at the proposed sites.
By Patti Witten