What Is an Aqueduct?

Once you have finished your snack and some homework, you go outside to enjoy the pleasant weather with your friends. A spontaneous soccer game starts and you play until you are sweaty and dirty.

As it starts to get dark, you come back inside feeling thirsty and dirty. You probably don’t even think about it when you turn on the tap to pour a cold glass of water or take a nice hot shower. In today’s world, most of us are fortunate to have clean water just a turn away.

However, in the past, this was not the case. Water has always been and will always be essential for a society. As ancient civilizations developed, access to clean water was always a top priority.

How did ancient cities with basic sewage systems ensure that their citizens had enough clean drinking water? How did they provide uncontaminated water for agricultural purposes? The answer to these questions was the aqueduct.

When most people hear the word “aqueduct,” they imagine a large structure that looks like a bridge and carries cars or trains. In reality, these man-made structures were channels for transporting water.

The aqueducts we think of as impressive structures were used to transport water across large gaps or valleys. However, they were only a small visible part of a true aqueduct, which is a large system consisting of various elements like pipes, canals, ditches, tunnels, and other supporting structures to transport water from a source to a distant distribution point.

The ancient Romans are widely known as the greatest builders of aqueducts in the ancient world. However, they were not the first to construct aqueducts. Other systems had been built hundreds of years earlier in places like Egypt, Persia, and India.

Ancient Rome’s aqueduct system was incredibly intricate. It is considered one of the most remarkable engineering accomplishments in history. Over the course of five centuries, the Romans constructed 11 aqueducts that brought water into the city from distances of up to 57 miles.

Only a small portion of Rome’s aqueducts crossed valleys on impressive stone arches. Most of the systems consisted of underground tunnels made of stone and terracotta pipes. Some parts of these systems are still in use today.

Aqueducts are not just a thing of the past. Modern aqueduct systems transport more water over longer distances than the ancient Romans could have ever imagined. For example, New York City’s water supply comes from three main aqueduct systems that can transport nearly two billion gallons of water each day.

The longest aqueduct system in the world can be found in California. The northern part of the state receives more rain than the densely populated southern part. The California Aqueduct transports over 650 million gallons of water a distance of over 440 miles each day.

Try It Out

Are you ready to learn more about aqueducts? Ask a friend or family member to help you explore the following activities:

  • Take a look at Watering Ancient Rome online to discover more about how the Romans created complex aqueduct systems to supply Rome with the necessary water for its growth into the heart of a vast empire.
  • Go online and play the enjoyable Construct an Aqueduct game. Can you successfully construct the structures that will bring water to Rome? Invite a friend or family member to join you in playing.
  • If you’re ready for a challenge, attempt to build your own aqueduct at home. You’ll need assistance from an adult friend or family member. For guidance and instructions, visit Do as the Romans: Construct an Aqueduct online.


  • https://www.britannica.com/technology/aqueduct-engineering
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/magazine/2016/11-12/roman-aqueducts-engineering-innovation/


1. What is an aqueduct?

An aqueduct is a structure that is built to transport water from one location to another. It is typically a system of channels, pipes, or tunnels that is designed to carry water over long distances, often across natural obstacles such as valleys or rivers.

2. How do aqueducts work?

Aqueducts work by using gravity to move water from a higher elevation to a lower elevation. The water flows through the channels or pipes of the aqueduct, following a gentle downward slope. This slope creates the necessary pressure for the water to flow continuously and reach its destination.

3. What were aqueducts used for in ancient times?

In ancient times, aqueducts were primarily used to supply water to cities, towns, and agricultural areas. They were essential for providing a reliable water source for drinking, bathing, irrigation, and other daily needs. Some aqueducts were also used to transport water for industrial purposes, such as powering mills or supplying water to mines.

4. How were aqueducts built in ancient civilizations?

Ancient civilizations used various construction techniques to build aqueducts. They would often employ skilled engineers and laborers to design and construct the structures. Aqueducts were typically built using stone, bricks, or concrete, and they required careful planning to ensure a steady water flow and structural stability. The construction process involved excavation, laying the foundations, building the channels or pipes, and sometimes constructing bridges or tunnels to overcome obstacles.

5. Are aqueducts still used today?

Yes, aqueducts are still used today in many parts of the world. While modern technology has allowed for the development of more advanced water transportation systems, aqueducts continue to play a role in supplying water to certain areas. They are often used in regions with limited water resources or in areas where other methods of water transportation are not feasible or cost-effective.

6. What are some famous aqueducts?

There are several famous aqueducts around the world. The Pont du Gard in France, built by the ancient Romans, is one of the most well-preserved and iconic aqueducts. The Aqueduct of Segovia in Spain, the Aqueduct of the Vanvitelli in Italy, and the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the United States are also notable examples. These aqueducts not only showcase impressive engineering but also serve as historical and cultural landmarks.

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