Erbil's ancient irrigation system
The first and most ancient water management project in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq dates back to the era of Sennacherib, the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Due to the lack of water in Erbil Citadel, Sennacherib decided to bring water from the Xani mountains 55 kilometers away. His project is now an archaeological treasure found in 1933.
"Dr. Yourdan, an archaeologist from Mosul, first found a big rock on which Sennacherib was engraved," said Khattab Rasul, a local archaeologist from Erbil. "A team worked on the rock until 1946. They found the whole writing on a number of huge rocks. The text talks about how the water project was devised."
According to the text, deciphered first by archaeologist Fuad Safar, Sennacherib started the project from the Xani Mountains, 33 km away from Safin Mountain. In the first phase, they completed bringing water from Xani to the mountain plains of Safin, Pirmam, and then Binabawi. In the second phase, they dug to bring water to the rivers of Suse, Zyarat, and Qirzha and then to Bastora. In the fourth phase, they brought it to Erbil Citadel.
"The project is huge. The human mind cannot take it. It is like a miracle," said Rasul. "It is now easy to talk about it. However, it was an impossible mission for that time, but they did it."
Sennacherib ordered the construction of a water reservoir with big rocks. According to the local archeologist, the water went through a stone refinery so it would be pure and fresh. They have also dug other wells to keep more water for times of drought or emergencies.
"I am Sennacherib, king of the world and Assur," reads ancient text inscribed on one of the huge rocks.
"I created three rivers in the plains of Xani mountain range," it added. "From them, I have brought water to Erbil, home of the great god Ashtar."
Local archaeologists believe that Sennacherib's water irrigation system was a great success story and a significant achievement during his kingdom, to the extent that future generations have talked about it.