I have this medieval world with this big realm.
Its climate is dry and warm and the main issue is what to drink, how to do the hygiene, agriculture etc.

They have no access to seas nor mountains.

There are some rivers, but they're often dry and not so wide (therefore using pumps to fetch the water from these sources is not a lifesaving solution), but all the water they have is from the rivers - it is not enough though and people die a lot because of dehydration.

Simply water is rare in general. Digging wells is not a good solution either because the water is really deep in most of the country.
Rains also come very rarely, two or three times a year maybe (but when they do they are steady and heavy, they can last a week or even more).

My ideas:

  • They could import water from distant places in tanks, but that is not so effective (especially when they need so much), probably very expensive and there is higher risk that the water will be tainted.
  • They could somehow store the water from the rains, but I don't know how (also risk with contamination).

They have a really good king with a smart government and they want to help people and the realm. Also, the realm is quite rich, so they are able to invest a lot of money and energy in solving this. What possibilities do they have?

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    $\begingroup$ As far as your story goes, make sure you're making a kingdom to fit its environment, otherwise you get these kinds of inconsistencies. Whatever the solution is here, it's going to be what they have always done, not a new problem they're solving since popping into existence. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jan 9 '17 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ Seen the original "Star Wars" movies? starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Moisture_farm $\endgroup$ – Karl Jan 9 '17 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ Are you suggesting vapor collection? $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 10 '17 at 11:49

It's highly unlikely that a rich, centralized realm would come to existence under the given circumstances. But the only reasonable solution (if there is no magic) would be to store the rainwater in some form of cisterns or stepwells.



They should be guarded, and those who dare to steal or contaminate the water, draconically punished, but as you can see, such facilities was feasible even in the ancient times. They would be built and maintained by public works, which would also encourage lazy waterwasters to migrate out from the overcrowded country.

EDIT: As far as understand, the shortage of water is not a consequence of some sudden catastrophe, but a natural property of the region. This would prevent people from doing effective agriculture, and leaving the area loosely populated with nomad pastoral folks. (just like deserts and half-deserts in the real world.) This wouldn't allow centralized government.

Since humans (and most animals) tend to not multiply if the basic conditions of life (food, water...) are missing, such a setting is unlikely. (Expect climate change.)

EDIT2: You have stated in your comments, that by the time of the founding of the Kingdom there were enough water, but now there is less in every year. If this trend will continue, even cisterns and aqueducts would become useless. So my ultimate advice to the King: Prepare a force as fast as possible, go, and conquer some water-rich region, to provide new home for your people. If the country is going to be deserted, this is the only way.

  • $\begingroup$ It is not a sudden catastrophe but it was going slowly worse for a long time now and the described state is the result of that. $\endgroup$ – TGar Jan 10 '17 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ So its the climate change scenario. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 10 '17 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is, but the change was slow, they weren't solving it and now they're in trouble. (remind something?) $\endgroup$ – TGar Jan 10 '17 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ Or, the deserts may have something of high value drawing people in anyway. Think of Spice on the Dune story. $\endgroup$ – David162795 Jan 10 '17 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, but this wasn't included in the question. And even in this case, the agriculture and the industry, and the children and woman has to be removed. (These form the majority of the population.) Only workers to mine or harvest the valuable thing, and soldiers to protect them have to remain in the desert. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 10 '17 at 16:23

You have basically just described what happened to the Indus Valley Civilization which was very reliant on a single river system which started to dry up.If your rivers are actually running dry you are even worse off.

The result was the slow collapse of their civilization as they lose the ability to feed themselves and thus can't support specialists. This causes a slow decline in and eventual loss of the so called hallmarks of civilization like writing and metal working. Trade civilizations are even worse off, since trade relies on access to water, No one is going to trade with you if you have nothing to trade and can't even provide a reliable abundant source of water for caravans.

Eventually it leads to the abandonment of their cities. They really can't save themselves by building things becasue they really can't support the workforce needed to build things like dams and reservoirs with a failing infrastructure. Not that they would help when rain is as rare as you say, your reservoirs would need to be on a scale dwarfing even modern ones. Your king is helpless when faced with the loss of the primary vital resource from which all other resources stem. If your king is really benevolent and knowledgeable he will tell his citizens to abandon the country and move to another one.

Your kingdom should already have widespread abandonment of settlements, political strife, and collapse of law and order. People in modern first world countries take water for granted but the effects of prolonged shortages are catastrophic.

  • $\begingroup$ It's also apparently what happened to the civilisation that created the nazca lines in South America. The area in question was a lot greener and fertile, they also had elaborate well systems. Then the rains/underground water sources shifted and the area became drier and drier until the people died, moved away and merged into other societies. Climate refugees could be an aspect of the OPs story. $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Jan 11 '17 at 7:52

Upgrade the rivers.

If the rivers loose too much water before making it to the kingdom then you need to upgrade the rivers. As Mrkvička said, use aqueducts, but build them into the river beds. This will allow the kingdom to direct all the water from the river's source much further along the existing riverbed to the kingdom.

Of course this will have been done long before the kingdom grew to its current size, since there is a catch 22 with having a large kingdom that hasn't ever had much water.

  • $\begingroup$ This state is newer than the kingdom, they had water in the past, but now for certain time the amount of water is lower and lower. $\endgroup$ – TGar Jan 10 '17 at 8:32

I think b.Lorenz has some good points. Another way for them to get water would be aqueducts, which is how water has been transported as early as 2000 BCE. To cite the Wikipedia article:

Although particularly associated with the Romans, aqueducts were likely first used by the Minoans around 2000 BCE. The Minoans had developed what was then an extremely advanced irrigation system, including several aqueducts.

In the seventh century BCE, the Assyrians built an 80 km long limestone aqueduct, which included a 10 m high section to cross a 300 m wide valley, to carry water to their capital city, Nineveh.

One drawback with aqueducts, though, is that the water needs to fall. This means that you need to find a source of water which is higher up than the city you wish to transport it to. If there are no mountains or hills or any other high locations where the river (or lake, or whichever other water source they might use) originates, then it won't reach the city. On the other hand, it might be a way to get it close enough to make the final transport not that tedious.

  • $\begingroup$ Good point. But since the continuously available water sources are stated to be insufficient, the aqueducts alone won't mean a solution. They would serve in the distribution of water from the stepwells, or help to efficiently import water from other countries. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 9 '17 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ @b.Lorenz That is true. My hopes, though, was that since an actual civilization built an 80 km long aqueduct, then they might have a stable water source in a mountain range within such range that it would either be possible to get it all the way to the city or at least close enough to make the final transport faster. I guess (wildly) that a horse with carriage filled with water barrels could do 20 km in a day, so if they have mountains at 200 km distance (which is quite far away for a medieval city), then half of that could be aqueduct and half would take a caravan ca 5 days to cover. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Jan 9 '17 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ Possible, of course. But importing water from far away, (as stated in the original question) would cause extreme dependency on that area. If the mountains belong to a hostile power (or is neutral at the start, but falls to a hostile one.) The Desert Empire would be in deadly peril. Stepwells are exposed to wartime damage too, but they can have backup from them in their palaces and forts. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 9 '17 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I just wanted to indicate your name at the beginning, but it somehow attached my comment to yours, and removed the username. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Jan 9 '17 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ The water level problem, for aqueducts, can be mitigated using an Archimedes screw: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes%27_screw $\endgroup$ – jose_castro_arnaud Jan 9 '17 at 23:35

Unfortunately you've got bigger problems than just having water to drink. The vast majority of water usage goes towards crops, which at this point should start to fail due to the combination of brief rainstorms followed by long periods of drought. I'm not sure an aqueduct would be enough to supply the entire kingdom's agriculture, and if there's no elevated water source very nearby then building the thing could become very complex (the longest the Romans ever built was ~130 km).

To solve this, we need to know more about their situation. To be a wealthy medieval kingdom despite the lack of agriculture implies they are either involved in exporting valuable commodities (gold, spices, etc), or are at the crossroads of several major trade routes. Fortunately, both scenarios imply trade is already common and feasible.

My Solution: Definitely try to build an aqueduct to supply the cities if you can, and deep wells to store rainwater wouldn't go amiss either. Also make efforts to urbanize most of the population so they have access to this new water infrastructure, while the former agricultural land is given over to grazing. Then, begin importing vast amounts of food to make up for the shortages. Rafting it down the aqueduct could ease travel? Otherwise just use wagons. Unlike water, beer doesn't spoil, so if you ever need to transport water without the help of an aqueduct, consider using beer instead (the Royal Navy did this during the Age of Sail). And, pray this source of wealth doesn't dry up and that your grain supply doesn't get cut off.

Also, invent stillsuits.


People dying of dehydration is pretty bad. But they were probably already sick.

It used to be that people did not drink water. People drank wine or cider exclusively. It is good, has caloric value and the production techniques mean that there is little chance of having some dude's feces in your drink. I think it is Rats, Lice and History that describe a Spanish army on the march which ran out of wine; following this 20,000 soldiers died of dysentery. This means to me that before they ran out of wine, these soldiers drank only wine.

If you have an occasional rain that lasts a week that will work. You allude to this with your comment on storing water in tanks. That has been done in the middle east for thousands of years. Underground stone cisterns caught and kept water from infrequent rains. There were channels to carry the water there and so on. Cool stuff. And you already have the government to make it happen. Here is a link to get you started.


So 1. What to drink: wine. Make it from melons if too dry for grapes. 2. Agriculture: dryland crops. Lithic mulch! 3. Hygiene... explain some more this thing "hygiene".


Look at the city of Rome as an example there are the over ground aqueducts that we see some still surviving.

But more importantly the Romans built many underground pipes and tunnels which are large enough to drive a car through, even today some are still used to bring water into Rome.

The Romans developed the below system and many others.


There is also Archemedies water screw which was used around 740 BC to bring water from low areas to high areas, with enough of these and good water ducts you could get water anywhere, combined with what the romans used it can work.


Don't forget that there are many other cultures that probably built similar systems that have been lost to time. Its just down to your imagination.

Also the romans used volcanic material mined from under Rome and other areas to create a type of concrete that was water proof and was perfect for transporting water with a low loss compared to today's technology.

If the realm is rich and smart then they could develop technology like the Romans or they could attack and steal it from someone else.


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