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Water Conservation in the Urban Landscape Through Heritage and Capacity Building: The Case of Guimarães, Portugal

ABSTRACT

Water is vital for our life and for the well-being and survival of future generations. Water is the key element of the socio-economic development of the countries and is one of the most critical resources for the tourism industry. Nowadays water scarcity and water quality challenges have been identified in many parts of the world. Thus, it has been recognized that water is a natural resource, which needs to be preserved and guarantee its quality. In this context, water issues in the tourism industry are obtaining big attention from organizations, such as the United Nations Environmental Programme, the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Moreover, this resource is an unquestionable element of the urban planning in history, and in the past, the decision-makers assumed its presence as fundamental in the city or rural planning.

Thus, this study considers the historic urban landscape, all natural and cultural attributes placed in historic layers of cultural accumulation, including hydrology and other natural characteristics of the place. In this way, the water presence in historic cities as a natural resource that circulates in rivers, fountains, underground flows, aqueducts, cisterns, and other cultural elements are very important to explore as living testimonies of the human presence and as a natural resource to preserve for the future. In fact, the water landscape and the water heritage have a social projection as a legacy and expression of the history of a certain place and the local communities. The charts and conventions written around the heritage conservation and preservation do not reflect around the water as a tangible or intangible heritage resource and do not debate the methodologies and the practical implications of the water use. It is a gap in the historical preservation and heritage conservation. Thus, this chapter proposes to highlight the role of the water heritage conservation as a way to develop cultural and sustainable tourism practices. The determination of principles around safeguard of resilient water landscape will improve the information and valorization around this enormous heritage. It is important to debate principles and a methodology that tourism and local communities could adopt and implement to protect water as a natural and cultural resource in a risk.

INTRODUCTION

Urban landscapes are the most heterogeneous. In fact, guarantying the sustainability of those landscapes can be challenging. In this context, Wu (2010) emphasized the importance of research in urban landscape sustainability. This issue must be taken seriously. Urbanized areas account for around 60% of residential water consumption will be taken into consideration (Grimm et al., 2008).

One way toward sustainability of urban landscape is conservation of its water resorrrces, since it is a critical resource in operation and development of any city. In this context, furthermore, water is a natural and cultural, material and immaterial resource; at the same time is an aesthetic, social, political, environmental, and economic element in the cities (Freitas et al., 2017b).

Water resources are becoming scarce. Thus, there is an increasing demand to conserve water in urban landscapes. It should be realized that the sustainable use and protection of water resources in urban landscapes is more than the preservation of natural resources, it is also the preservation of area’s cultural heritage. Concerns about the water heritage inventory arise following the UNESCO (2011) recommendations for the historic urban landscape that suggests the promotion of inventories of cultural and natural heritage in historic cities as a way to preserve and manage the urban landscape. History, heritage, and culture are an inspiration for our life. Furthermore, cultural heritage in historical cities is essential for appealing tourists to a destination.

However, nowadays, water landscape and water heritage are in a risk due to the various factors such as, climate alteration, change in land use, increasing demand for water resources, among others. One of the natural factors is climate change, as an accelerator process, that increases stress conditions in the landscape vulnerability, which could generate losses in tourist destinations. This continuous degradation of the natural and cultural heritage due to climate change can affect also the economic opportunities for local communities (UNESCO, 2016). In this context, the importance of preservation of water is considered as natural and cultural heritage in urban landscapes rises. UNESCO (2018) improved the defense of the nature-culture conservation strategy and developed, in partnership with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy to achieve innovation and excellence. Those institutions aim to use the capacity building as a methodology to a better cooperation between nature and culture in World Heritage places.

Following the definition exposed by ICOMOS (2013) capacity building “is the process, by which individuals, organizations, institutions, and societies develop abilities to perform functions, solve problems, and set and achieve objectives,” The present chapter aims to contribute toward understanding the preservation of water as a natural and cultural heritage in urban landscapes, in this case, a World Heritage place. Capacity building within water as a cultural and a natural element can be an essential tool resulting in the positive overall performance of the stakeholders of a certain area, including individuals, organizations, institutions, and decision-makers.

As the case study area of this research has been selected the historical city Guimaraes located in Portugal. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) tools have been used to map the landscape of the historical city center. Furthermore, the review of academic literature presented along with applied methodologies on water resources preservation in urban landscapes, in addition, the importance of capacity building experience is highlighted.

The specific objectives of the present study are (1) to map the historical landscape and water resources of the Guimaraes city by using GIS tools. This mapping will identify the cultural heritage and the presence of water resources in this city classified as World Heritage. This mapping will improve the attention dedicated to water and promote the awareness of locals and visitors about the water present in a city, in a way of sustainable capacity building. (2) Debate the attained results, following with the most important theoretical contributions, practical implications, and suggestions for further research in the field of the cultural heritage linked with water that could prevent and theorize capacities in water conservation.

As UNESCO (2018) reinforces, a World Heritage place should guarantee the innovation and the excellence in the preservation and conservation of natural and cultural heritage and traditional techniques associated more sustainable then the actual ones.

WATER AS A NATURAL/CULTURAL RESOURCE: THE LITERATURE REVIEW

Water is vital for oui life and for the well-being and survival of future generations. Water is the key element of the socio-economic development of the countries and is one of the most critical resources for the tourism industry (UNWTO, 2013). Nowadays, water scarcity and water quality challenges have been identified in many parts of the world (Kasim et al., 2014). Thus, it has been recognized that water is a natural resource, which needs to be preserved. In this context, water issues in the tourism industry are obtaining big attention from organizations, such as the United Nations Environmental Programme, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (Gossling et al., 2015).

Moreover, this resource is an unquestionable element of the urban planning. Historically the decision makers assumed its presence as a fundamental in city or rural planning. In the past, the water was central in urban places. All cultural, political, economic, and social life developed around water and its supply (Freitas et al., 2017a). Nowadays, the impressive growth of the population in urban areas and the implementation of water supply network, develop another relation with the water, in particular disappears the feeling of nature-dependent swallowing resource.

It is important to guarantee the sustainability of the cities by preserving its water landscape. Furthermore, the conservation of water landscape in historical sites is certainly advantageous for developing tourism since the tourism industry highly depends on the availability and quality of water resources. Moreover, this issue is critical for sustainable tourism management strategies and programs, which are actual nowadays. Since the tourism, as well as the climate change, could be a factor of rapid change in water culture and heritage not only in the process of the water use but also because of the water loss due to the growth of tourism and its impacts. Given this context, Kjelgren et al. (2000) expressed their concern regarding the conservation of water resources to support the population in urban landscapes, since the majority of the population is concentrated in urban areas.

Nowadays, the growth of the urban population has changed the balance between water demand and supply, which in turn make additional pressure on the envir onment. One of the most critical envir onmental problems in historical cities is water supply issues due to the growth of the urban population (Chang, 1998). The growth of the urban population leads to different water supply and water demand issues (Hilaire et al., 2008). The factors such as landscape irrigation, climate change, the decline of water quality, and public and private water consumption can influence supply and demand, that have big impacts on the water as a natural resource, in particular in urban places (Renouf et al., 2018).

Agreeing with Junqing et al. (2011), “water cultural heritages protection and sustainable utilization are linked together and form a continuous-unity. The development must submit to protection, and the first principle is to coordinate development with protection.” That is where sustainable use of heritage resides.

Today the urban landscape is an accumulation of layers of past interventions of the man in a certain place (Maniglios, 2017). This accumulation of cultur al layers of social expressions in a diachr onic perspective, are historical documents of the societies living and inheritance. In this context, water as a natural and cultural resour ce, material and immaterial, has been an aesthetic, social, political, environmental, and economic element in the cities (Freitas et al., 2017b).

The concern about the water heritage inventory arises following the UNESCO (2011) recommendations for the historic urban landscape that suggests the promotion of inventories of cultural and natural heritage in historic cities as a way to preserve and manage the urban landscape. This document considers as historic urban landscape all natural and cultural attributes placed in historic layers of cultural accumulation, including hydrology and other natural characteristics of the place. In this way, the water presence in historic cities as a natural resource that circulates in rivers, fountains, underground flows, aqueducts, cisterns, and other cultural elements are very important to explore as living testimonies of the human presence in the city history and as a natural resource to preserve for the future.

The water landscape is full of resilient cultural elements (tangible or intangible) related to water. History, heritage, and culture are an inspiration for our life. Tuohino and Pitkanen (2004), in the case of thousand Finnish Lakes, discussed the symbolic importance of the lake’s water for the Finnish culture. Wijetunga and Sung (2015) defined it as being “known as the combined work of humans and nature [...] can be defined as forms, relationships, and practices and are visible in any landscape with human involvement.” The water has another advantage: it is an element that returns the man’s action with emotions in the moments of leisure. The aesthetics, the social and cultural water behalf, and the “acoustic comfort is an important element of the landscape experience” (Ren and Kang, 2015). In urban places where the traffic and other noise are more intense, the water sounds are important.

However, nowadays, water landscape and heritage are in a risk due to the climate change as an accelerator process, that enlarges stress conditions in the landscape vulnerability, generating loses in touristic destinations. This continuous degradation of the natural and cultural heritage due to the climate change will affect also the economic opportunities for local communities (UNESCO, 2016).

Over the tangible heritage lie the threat of climate change and increasing of extreme event and change of the weather patterns, in particular, the increase of temperature and the decrease of humidity, the effect of strong winds that affect negatively and compromise the cultural heritage assets, the sea-level rising, and other natural occurrences as storms, floods, earthquakes, fire, and others (Sesana et al., 2018).

The urban development without precaution is another risk in consideration and the urban growing endanger the waterscape and water as natural and cultural heritage (Mitra and Banerji, 2018). In urban places, the identification of the cultural heritage related to water is important considering that a part of the water and its cultural and historic elements are undergr ound and the land use without precautions of safeguard in urban places could damage or destroy these cultural elements or the natural course of the water causing negative impacts.

This study considers the historic urban landscape, all natural and cultural attributes placed in historic layers of cultural accumulation, including hydrology and other natural characteristics of the place. In this way, the water presence in historic cities as a natural resource that circulates in rivers, fountains, underground flows, aqueducts, cisterns, and other cultural elements are very important to explore as living testimonies of the human presence and as a natural resource to preserve for the future. In fact, the water landscape and the water heritage have a social projection as a legacy and expression of the history of a certain place and the local communities.

The historical analysis reflects the importance of the water and a historical landscape to preserve not only because of its natural importance but also because of its important cultural testimony of the passage of times and construction of the memories of the places. In this way, it is crucial to create a chart of principles around water and its uses and it is fundamental to discuss how the capacity building could expand the conservation of the water resilience and heritage and how to develop attitudes (from residents or fr om visitors) toward preserving water.

It is undeniable that cultural heritage, tangible or intangible, must be protected for its significance, value, and for the capacity to be a unique testimony of diversity, identity, and history on the planet Earth. As life testimony of human culture and human existence, in macro or micro places, cultural heritage needs to be preserved for future generations as irr eplaceable elements of human construction through times.

Charts and conventions written around the heritage conservation and preservation do not reflect around the water as a tangible or intangible heritage resource and do not debate the methodologies and the practical implications of the water use. It is a gap in the historical preservation and heritage conservation to think water in its natural field and improve good practices to manage and conserve water in the territory, in particular in the stressed urban places.

 
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