Water Management


Water was then generally distributed according to two different purposes- public and private usage. For public use, permanent pipelines were used to supply the public baths and fountains. For private use, there were pipelines to houses which provided an interruptible flow (for a user to open and close their water supply).


From secondary water towers, fresh water was available to the public through pipelines on tap. There were 42 public fountains (nymphaneum) spread across town. Fountains had a square rectangular shape consisting of large stone. A tap was located at the center which was connected to pipes under the pavement.

Public fountain (nymphaneum). (Source: Jim Park)

A supply of freshwater was provided using an overflow system. Water would run continuously and overflow into drainage hole to the street. This allowed for an abundant source of water throughout the city. Archeological surveys indicate that earthquakes between AD 62-79 impared the network of pipes which impacted the water system. It is believed that the water supply system was undergoing maintenance before the eruption as trenches were found in many sections of pavement indicating the possibility of repairs. (Wilkinson, 2019)


Public baths (thermae) were common during this time. It was customary to visit the baths daily, both for cleanliness and also to socialize. The buildings had designated areas respective to gender. Pomepiians took baths regularly and was not designated by the class (slaves, poor, wealthy) of the person, this was an inclusive activity. (Stickland, 2010)

Stabian bath “lockers” to put personal belongings. (Source: Jim Park)

Visitors had access to hot (caldarium), tepid (tepidarium), and cold (frigidarium) baths. The baths were built with air ducts and floor heating to maintain the steam when in use. Ceilings had grooves to allow condensation to channel down the walls instead of drip onto the bathers (Rose, 2014). Due to the large demand of water usage, it was essential for public baths to have large storage tanks above the building for its water storage. (Olsson, 2015)


There was a small percentage of homes that had water piped into their homes (Lorenz and Wolfram, 2014). Private water use was considered a luxury, those residences that had it indicated their social status. Private homes’ water supply was considered independent from other opening and closing valves of neighboring buildings. This ensured neighboring buildings did not have interrupted flow. (Richter, et al., 2015)(Rose, 2014)

  1. Lorenz, Wayne, and Edward Wolfram. The Wells of Pompeii. Ground Water, 20 June 2014, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wayne_Lorenz/publication/262931943_The_Wells_of_Pompeii/links/5768001a08ae421c448df128/The-Wells-of-Pompeii.pdf.
  2. Olsson, R 2015, ‘The water-supply system in Roman Pompeii’, Licentiate, Classical archaeology and ancient history. (https://tinyurl.com/y58v5ow8)
  3. Richter/GTRES, J., Paolo, Scala, & Brozzi/Fototeca, S. (2016, November 15). Aqueducts: Quenching Rome’s Thirst. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2016/11-12/roman-aqueducts-engineering-innovation/.
  4. Rose, Joan B., and Andreas Nikolaos Angelakis. Evolution of Sanitation and Wastewater Technologies through the Centuries. IWA Publishing, 2014.
  5. Strickland, M. (2010). Roman Building Materials, Construction Methods, and Architecture: The Identity of an Empire. TigerPrints / Clemson University. (https://tinyurl.com/y2tmuadr)
  6. Wilkinson, Paul. Pompeii: an Archaeological Guide. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.

Catalina Rivas, Graduate Student
Fall 2019