Water History

, Volume 10, Issue 2–3, pp 141–161 | Cite as

Management of the lagoon and urban environment in 18th-century Venice

  • Salvatore CiriaconoEmail author


The aim of the essay is to look at the water management in this amphibious city par excellence at the interaction of the “science of water” with different aspects. We have taken in consideration the importance of the river basins, of woodlands, of meteorology, of the measurement of rainfall, of the atmospheric pressure and humidity. Further Venice had long been growing aware of environmental issues such as air quality, public hygiene and the collection/disposal of waste products, regulations regarding burials, the location of harmful industries and measures intended to protect citizens. But the Republic that existed thanks to maritime trade had to look for the water supplies that were essential to its urban and demographical expansion. Indeed, as Marin Sanudo underlined “Venice is in the water but has no water”. Those measures hinged upon the collection of rainwater in “Venetian wells”, though that source of supply was soon being supplemented with fresh water drawn from the river Brenta. No less complex was the continual battle the city had to wage in order to defend itself against water—a struggle which had to be fought on different fronts. From one side it had been necessary to exclude the major rivers outside the Venetian basin. From the other it was crucial to maintain the canals within the city free from alluvial silt. No less important was to provide defence against the sea itself. An additional issue in this matter was that the energy crisis within the city led to wood (potential fuel) increasingly being replaced by stone (as was the case with the Murazzi sea barriers put up at the end of the 18th century).


Water management Environmental history Venetian lagoon Venice 18th century 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DISSGEA (Department of History)University of PadovaPaduaItaly

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