Revitalizing India's Traditional Water Systems

Photograph of one of India's waterways.

Students will work with Professor Walter Hakala to research ancient technologies of water retrieval, storage, and distribution across present-day India along with current efforts to revitalize neglected structures.

Project description

In the arid landscapes that dominate much of present-day India, the survival and success of polities depended in part on their ability to manage water resources. Within the competitive political environment of early modern South Asia, technologies of water retrieval, storage, and distribution were vital means through which states established their cosmopolitan character, drawing immigrants from Iran, Ethiopia, and even Europe. These states sponsored the construction of ingenious structures such as stepwells, underground canals, water towers, reservoirs, and aqueducts for the collection and distribution of water across great distances. Elaborate fountains, baths, and gardens were enjoyed by elites, while canals, Persian wheels, and other technologies expanded the irrigated areas that could be subjected to intensive cultivation. Asian Studies Professor Walter Hakala seeks student researchers interested in studying these technologies and current efforts to revitalize neglected structures. Students will work with Dr. Hakala to collect and interpret scholarly materials connected with traditional water systems and their preservation. Prof. Hakala enthusiastically supports students who seek to present their research at conferences, travel to South Asia, and/or author or co-author journal articles on this or related topics. Interested students may schedule a meeting to discuss this or other projects with Prof. Hakala contacting him at

Project outcome

The specific outcomes of this project will be identified by the faculty mentor at the beginning of your collaboration. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Variable
Start time Fall, Spring, Summer
Level of collaboration Variable
Benefits Academic Credit, Volunteer
Who is eligible Familiarity with Delivery+ (UB's interlibrary loan system), strong research and writing skills, interest in travel to South Asia
Support Funding is available after the completion of the preparation badge. See below.

Project mentor

Walter Hakala

Associate Professor

Asian Studies

315 Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-3419



To engage with this project, you will work through a series of Project-Based Collaboration digital badges to guide your experience. These badges will:

  1. Guide you in setting your goals and intentions as well as gaining additional context,
  2. Enhance your collaboration with your mentor/partner,
  3. Support your reflection and help you integrate your learning with your academic and professional goals.

All students who wish to participate in a project on the Project Portal must first complete the Project Preparation Digital Badge. First, contact the project mentor to discuss availability and after you’ve received approval, you can start the Project Preparation Digital Badge.

Preparation guidance

Set up a meeting with Prof. Walt Hakala to discuss what specific activities you will complete to prepare for this mentored project. Contact him using the information above.