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
In-person, remote, or hybrid?
Level of collaboration Variable
Benefits Academic Credit, Volunteer
Who is eligible Students are required to have enrolled in at least one course with Dr. Hakala and/or in the Asian Studies Program.   
Critical Language and Boren Scholarships

Students participating in this project might be interested in and eligible for the Critical Language Scholarship and the Boren Scholarship. Connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to learn more.

Project mentor

Walter Hakala

Associate Professor

Asian Studies and English

315 Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-3419


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

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


Asian Studies and English