Wonderful Water

Richard Covington
One of the tecnologies that early Muslims excelled in was hydrology, or the control of water movement. By refining irrigation techniques from India, Asia and Rome Muslim engineers built an agricultural revolution.
Ibn Sina established hydraulics as an independent discipline. In Muslim Spain there was a masterful system of mills, dams, and canals built in the 8th-10th centuries. By the 10th century, at a time when no city in Christendom was larger than 10,000 souls, Córdoba in Muslim Spain had a population of half a million, sustained by the most advanced water systems in the world. In Madinat az Zahra archeologists uncovered 300 baths as as well as fishponds, sculpted marble pools and basins fed by a network of aqueducts and subterranean canals. Muslim irrigation systems and hydraulic works formed the basis of Spanish agriculture and were transferred to Texas. In France, engineers copied Islamic irrigation networks and some are still in use today. Engineer al-Jazari designed hydraulic pumps, water clocks based on principles so advanced they would not be seen in the West for 300 years, as well as segmental gears, cranks, and suction pumps, which da Vinci and other Italian inventors copied centuries later.
In Saudi Arabia 30% of dams built in the 700’s are intact. In Valencia, Spain eight 10th-century Muslim dams still supply the region’s irrigation needs. In the 9th century Zubayda, wife of Harun ar-Rashid, built wells, reservoirs and pools to provide water for pilgrims from Baghdad to Makkah. Curved dams, desilting sluices and hydropower are all Muslim inventions.