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date: 18 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Water security is a fundamental global challenge for humanity. Suggesting that scholars, water management engineers, and policy-makers draw from a wide range of examples, this chapter argues that knowledge gained from archaeological research provides unique insights into the long-term function and efficacy of water management systems. This chapter presents six cases of water management systems in the pre-Columbian Maya lowlands, from the Yalahau, Puuc-Nohkakab, Petén Karst Plateau, and Belize River Valley subregions, that demonstrate significant variation; a product of the interplay between social, political, and economic factors and hydrological regimes. The analysis suggests four insights relevant for current water security concerns: (1) water management systems are characterized by a diversity of solutions, (2) water scarcity promotes increased management investments that result in long-term vulnerability, (3) water abundance does not require complex management systems but increases the risk for mismanagement, and (4) institutional and technological diversity provide flexibility and greater security.

Keywords: pre-Columbian, lowland Maya, water management, water security, applied archaeology

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