Angkor Wat: A Journey into Khmer Empire’s Water Management Systems

Angkor Wat: A Journey into Khmer Empire’s Water Management Systems


Angkor Wat, located in present-day Cambodia Blog; click through the next website page,, is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Built during the height of the Khmer Empire, it served as the capital city and religious center from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Among its remarkable features is an intricate water management system that allowed the empire to flourish even in times of drought and monsoon. In this article, we will delve into the details of Angkor Wat’s water management systems, exploring the technology and ingenuity employed by the Khmer Empire.

1. The Importance of Water in the Khmer Empire:

Water was the lifeblood of the Khmer Empire, serving as a critical resource for agriculture, transportation, and religious rituals. The region’s monsoon climate, characterized by a distinct wet and dry season, necessitated effective water management to ensure the empire’s survival. The Khmers’ mastery of water allowed them to create an extensive network of reservoirs, canals, and moats, ensuring a constant water supply throughout the year.

2. Reservoirs: The Backbone of Water Management:

At the heart of Angkor Wat’s water management systems were its reservoirs, known as barays. These man-made lakes served as storage for rainwater during the monsoon season, ensuring a steady water supply during the dry season. The largest and most famous baray, the West Baray, spans an impressive 8 square kilometers and could hold up to 50 million cubic meters of water. The Khmers constructed an elaborate system of canals and embankments to divert water from rivers and streams into these reservoirs.

3. Canals: Water Highways of the Empire:

To distribute the stored water throughout the empire, the Khmers built an extensive network of canals. These canals acted as water highways, allowing for efficient transportation of goods and people, as well as providing irrigation for farmland. One of the most impressive canals, the North Baray’s East Mebon Baray Canal, stretches over 8 kilometers, connecting the reservoir to the temple of East Mebon. The construction of these canals required meticulous planning and engineering expertise, as they needed to maintain a consistent water level and flow.

4. Water Diversion Techniques:

To ensure a constant water supply, the Khmers employed various water diversion techniques. One such technique involved constructing small dams along rivers and streams to redirect water into the canals and reservoirs. These dams, known as weirs, were typically made of stone or earthen materials and played a crucial role in regulating water flow. The Khmers also used sluice gates, which could be opened or closed to control the flow of water between different canals or reservoirs. These techniques allowed the Khmers to efficiently manage the water supply, even during periods of heavy rainfall or drought.

5. Flood Management:

Managing the monsoon floods was another significant challenge faced by the Khmer Empire. To mitigate the impact of floods, they constructed a series of embankments and flood control channels. These structures, known as bunds, acted as barriers to redirect excess water away from important areas, such as temples and farmland. The Khmers also constructed overflow channels to divert excess water into the surrounding floodplains, preventing structural damage and ensuring that the water could be efficiently absorbed by the land.

6. Temple-Moats: Symbolism and Functionality:

One of the most recognizable features of Angkor Wat is its temple-moat system. Surrounding the main temple complex, these moats served both functional and symbolic purposes. Functionally, they acted as a defensive barrier, protecting the temple from potential invaders. Symbolically, they represented the cosmic oceans of Hindu mythology, reflecting the Khmers’ religious beliefs. The moats were also part of the water management system, providing a source of water for irrigation and serving as a reservoir during times of drought.

7. Legacy and Preservation:

Despite the decline of the Khmer Empire and the abandonment of Angkor Wat, the water management systems left a lasting legacy. The knowledge and skills developed by the Khmers in managing water resources have been passed down through generations, contributing to the agricultural prosperity of present-day Cambodia. Additionally, efforts have been made to preserve and restore the water management systems of Angkor Wat, ensuring their continued functionality and allowing visitors to witness the engineering marvels of the Khmer Empire.


Angkor Wat stands as a testament to the engineering prowess and ingenuity of the Khmer Empire. Their sophisticated water management systems enabled them to thrive in a challenging environment, ensuring a constant water supply for agriculture, transportation, and religious rituals. The reservoirs, canals, and moats of Angkor Wat serve as a reminder of the Khmers’ deep connection to water and their ability to harness its power. Today, as we marvel at the grandeur of Angkor Wat, we also appreciate the remarkable water management systems that made it all possible.

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