The decentralized self-healing village
Iran has been dealing with water stress in the past decade. Paradoxically, one of its most water-resourceful provinces suffers from water scarcity. Ahvaz and its rural villages in Khuzestan, where the Karun, the largest river in the country, passes through, face both floods and droughts due to failed governmental interventions, overexploitation of groundwater, and rainfall fluctuations leading to an unsustainable situation for the community and the environment. This study proposes a water management strategy to address the paradox in one of Ahvaz's rural districts. It applies the theory of norm shift , considering the community's ancestorial expertise in resource preservation. The goal is to develop a bottom-up, decentralized approach to address the complex socio-cultural and environmental conditions with minimum government intervention, using local materials and vernacular architecture. Based on a careful study of the site's micro-topography, a drainage network is designed for controlled detention and retention of floodwater in agricultural lands. It employs the ancient water collection method (Gourab ), and the preservation method (Ab-Anbar / Badgir ). The cistern complex provides year-round potable water and a community oasis where a comfortable microclimate is produced. The outcome heals human-induced environmental damage by promoting local expertise and enabling natural capital. A universally applicable practice can be extrapolated from this study to alleviate the water shortage problem in flood-prone arid regions. The conventional approach to preventing floods is constructing levees and fortifying the breaching edges. In contrast, this study proposes to "tame" the behavior of water by letting it follow its natural course. Instead of eliminating floods, the region will embrace it for a positive impact on agriculture, accumulating fertile soil and collecting floodwater to alleviate water shortage. The proposed scheme speculates an alternative low-tech, hi-impact strategy toward a sustainable built environment.