Saturday, July 27, 2019

Water and Waterways Management in the Roman Empire Workshop

In unusually good timing, following on last week's post on Roman water law, the Edinburgh Legal History Blog posted the other day on a workshop recently held at Edinburgh's Centre for Legal History on the management of water resources and waterways during the Roman period. The blog reports:
The papers were grouped into three themes: (i) the management of waterways; (ii) the management of land adjacent to waterways; and (iii) the exploitation of water resources.
The central aim of the workshop was to explore the potential and challenges of studying a historical problem from the perspective of different sets of evidence. From this point of view, the conference was a success. The management of water resources was an ideal subject, partly because the effective exploitation of water was essential to both agricultural and urban development in the ancient world. Moreover, the contributions of archaeologists and lawyers combined to lend an insight into the integrated technical and legal strategies that the Romans employed to the challenge of supplying water to the places it was required. In the case of rural communities, for example, irrigation was a central concern; while cities frequently relied upon rainwater collection and aqueducts to provide for their populations. Maintaining the navigability of waterways (both natural and man-made) was also an important task. In all these cases, the construction and maintenance of the necessary infrastructure was facilitated by the Roman legal framework, which provided remedies designed to govern the relationships between the individuals engaged in these tasks.
The workshop program is here.
Legal historians under the Roman aqueduct near Caesarea, Israel, 2017


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Streams of life and strife

Table IX of the Lex Irnitana – Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla
(image: Red Digital de Colecciones de Museos de España,
Last week Otto Vervaart's always learned Rechtsgeschiedenis Blog featured a post on water law: "Streams of life and strife: Water as a legal matter in Roman law". Some highlights:
The project Roman Water Law at the Freie Universität and the Humboldt Universität in Berlin helps to look at regulations concerning water and its uses according to an interesting scheme. Legal attention to water has a very long history.
The core of the virtual collection is a combination of legal sources found in the Corpus Iuris Civilis, three individual leges (laws) and the Codex Theosodianus with texts from Roman authors who touched the subject of water. The results are 572 entries with a Latin text and English translation to which one of ten newly defined categories have been assigned.
The harvest for Roman laws in the technical sense, leges approved by the senate of the Republic, may seem meagre with just three laws. However, one of them, the Lex Flavia Irnitana from AD 91, was only found in 1981. The fragments of six out of originally ten bronze tables are now held at the Museo Arqueológico in Seville {Hispania Epigraphica, no. 5058). This law, dated around 91 BC, is the most complete surviving example of a Lex Flavia, a municipal law. Chapter 82 of the Lex Irnitana deals with drainage and creating and changing roads, paths, canals and sewers, for which only the duumviri, a pair of magistrates elected for one year, are authorized if there is a municipal decret for their actions.
The core of the project are the classifications added to each entry. There are ten main types of classes, starting with definitions (44), followed by
Right to use water
Constructions to use water – Process of construction and maintenance
Legal protection of water use
Urban praedial servitudes of water
Regulation of damages and prevention of damage caused by water
Consequences of changes caused by water
Water as a route of transport
Water as a border
Buildings at banks, coasts and beaches 

Friday, July 5, 2019

A revised history of Chilean water law

The Chilean water code of 1981 is often held up as a paradigm of private property in water. Thomas Miller Klubock's new article in Environment and History, "The Early History of Water Wars in Chile: Rivers, Ecological Disaster and Multinational Mining Companies", provides some historical context. The abstract:
This article examines an early water war in Chile between local agriculturalists and the North American-owned El Teniente copper mine. It recovers a hitherto unknown history of ecological degradation caused by industrial copper mining during the twentieth century in Chile. It argues that contemporary water wars in Chile, usually viewed as a product of the privatisation of water rights in 1981 and the expansion of foreign investment in the mining sector during the 1990s, combined with the impact of global climate change, have roots in the appropriation of water in Andean rivers by North American companies at the beginning of the twentieth century. The article’s thesis is that the Chilean state subsidised the mining industry by granting water rights and turning a blind eye to mining companies’ contamination of rivers relied on by agriculturalists for irrigation. Finally, the article traces conservationist responses to the ecological crises produced by contamination of water and soil by the El Teniente mine, which was owned by the Kennecott Copper Company. It demonstrates that conservation of water resources was employed by estate owners as a means of asserting private property rights against the interests of mining companies.
Nicolas Schubert, Fundición de cobre en mina El Teniente, Codelco Chile