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Water management at Fountains

Fountains Abbey as it is today
Fountains Abbey

Every monastic community required a reliable water supply for washing, cooking and brewing, to power the mills and to remove waste from the site. Fountains Abbey was ideally situated in the valley of the Skell. The River Skell and the springs surrounding the valley could be exploited by the community to bring water to the site and establish a drainage system. However, it was not enough simply to have a source of water nearby. Water management meant working with nature, to make quality water available in some places, and to provide a strong current in others, for example, to power mills and remove waste. Water management also meant removing water from where it was not needed, whether this was rainwater that might cause flooding, waste water from the kitchens, or waste products. This could be a highly complex process, which involved skilful engineering. Unfortunately the water supply system at Fountains is not yet fully understood, and requires thorough archaeological excavation. (24)