Saving Segovia's Aqueduct

Few Watch listings have prompted so much outrage in a nation’s national press as WMF’s inclusion of the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain, on its 2006 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. The listing also revealed the problems that can arise when municipalities, regional governments, ministries of culture, and heritage organizations share jurisdiction over the management of a country’s patrimony but have disparate notions of what is best for a given site.

Begun in the second half of the first century a.d., the aqueduct at Segovia is a masterpiece of Roman engineering, which continued to provide the Spanish city—100 kilometers northwest of Madrid—with potable water well into the twentieth century. The aqueduct system stretches some 15 kilometers, from its origins at a freshwater source in the Sierra de Guadarrama southeast of the city to the Alcázar, a medieval castle built atop Roman remains on a precipice overlooking the junction of the Eresma and the Clamores valleys, which marks the northwest corner of town. Together with the walls of Tarragona, the aqueduct is one of the two largest surviving Roman structures in Spain. For most of its route, the aqueduct traverses the landscape through a series of ducts and underground channels. Only for its final stretch, where the system must bridge a deep depression at the Plaza del Azoguejo just below the old part of town, however, does it reach a full height of nearly 30 meters. There, where many of the main roads into Segovia meet, 118 pillars continue to support a two-story arcade.

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