Water management at Ventotene Island, Italy

A lthough very close to Rome and Naples, Ventotene is not spoiled by unsustainable tourism and local institutions and citizens take care of their territory. The inhabitants of Ventotene have always collected rainwater for domestic use, as it used to be the only option. Gutters under the roofs of the houses conveyed water in rain pipes and from there in collectors or cisterns, mainly placed underground, in the lower level of the houses. The cisterns were usually bell or drop shaped, or with arched tops, to stand the weight of big quantities of water and their inner surfaces were generally lined with hydraulic mortar.

Since water tankers were introduced in the ‘60s, the use of cisterns for collection and storage of water has decreased and is almost nil today. The new buildings are not equipped with cisterns and several of the existing ones have been transformed to cellars or apartments for rent in summer.

Nevertheless, lately, due to the considerable water shortage in summer and to an increased environmental awareness, rainwater harvesting methods are being revived, mainly for small size family agriculture and gardening.

This indicates that the reversal of the trend of not using rainwater harvesting on the island is possible with the proper support of administration and the appropriate promotion to citizens and tourism operators. In particular, builders should be encouraged to use the ancient techniques in building drop shaped, or barrel topped cisterns, a tradition and skill which is on the verge of disappearing, together with plumbing techniques such as the double pipeline in the buildings, one for rainwater, from the cisterns and another one for potable water. It is important to connect the information on rainwater harvesting with a campaign on the importance of the self-sufficiency of the isle and the decrease in water consumption.

The municipality of Ventotene is planning a project on ancient agriculture and irrigation methods with the Agriculture Councillorship of the Region of Latium (2009).