Home » Xinjiang Travel Guide » Turpan Travel Guide » Turpan Attractions » Karez Water and Irrigation System

Karez Water and Irrigation System

Karez Water and Irrigation System

Karez Water System is an irrigation system composed of wells connected by underground channels to be used in Xinjiang. There are hundreds of Karezes in Turpan City, the total length of which is approximately 5,000 kilometers.

As a creative underground water and irrigation system, it was listed as one of the three greatest water projects in ancient China along with the Dujiangyan Irrigation System and the Grand Canal. “Karez” is translated as “well” in the Uygur language. The Karez water system was an important invention by the Turpan people. 

Construction began on the ancient irrigation system during the Han Dynasty. The Karez water system played an important role in the development and prosperity of Turpan since Turpan was an oasis city along the ancient Silk Road. The Karezes nourished crops and nurtured the local people and passing travelers. The Karez water system is a feature that benefits generations after generations of people.  

This irrigation system takes advantage of the slope of the land by directing water flow from the mountains into underground channels. This causes the reduction of evaporating water under direct sunlight and pollution caused by sandstorms. Thus, the system is mainly composed of wells and underground channels.

As the second lowest basin in the world, after the construction of the Karez water system, on rainy days, water naturally flows from nearby mountains (i.e. Tianshan Mountain) through the Karezes of Tupan, making the karez wells practical for agricultural irrigation and other uses. Even in hot and dry summer days, the water from the underground channels provide a stable water source.

The Karez water and irrigation system are a significant historical heritage that plays a role in daily life of the local people in Turpan. Tourists can visit Turpan Water Museum showing the karez water system, among other historical exhibitions.