Water is vital for both people and animals, yet before the introduction of the well-known tap water, people had to resort to wells for their drinking water. This well water was used for a wide range of purposes: to drink, to prepare meals, to wash the dishes, to feed the cattle, to clean, etc. But next to its domestic value, water was and still is a crucial component in the industry as well: just think of breweries, tanneries, ice- and lemonade factories, etc. You might be surprised to hear, but also in these places you can often spot water wells.

Until recently, the water well was actually a very important aspect of daily life. It was only after the general distribution of modern water supplies in the second half of the twentieth century that the use of wells rapidly declined. Only a few decades ago, water well systems were still an integral part of the landscape. Unfortunately, more and more wells fell into disrepair and many of them were demolished. In many cases the actual pit or hole in the ground remained, but it was covered.

The deterioration of water wells is not only a material threat, i.e. architectural heritage, but also the knowledge required for the excavation and proper usage of a well is at risk of being lost. The MOT, however, is trying to stop this evolution, or better retrogression. In 2009 our museum set up an online project called ‘What about the water well?’, because you never miss the water till the well runs dry. For this initiative, we did not only draw up an international inventory of the existing wells, but also of the demolished, filled and covered ones. Since the start of the project, our database has been gradually expanding.

Do you know a water well? Please contribute by sending information to info@mot.be.

Do you actively want to take stock of wells? Have a look at the guidelines and download the instruction sheet (nl) for practical hints, the material needed and some safety rules. You can also use our detailed form (nl). Please find the glossary by clicking ‘What is What?’.