Cenotes are naturally formed subterranean caverns that form part of an underground aquifer. The cavern has an opening at the top, which is formed by the partial or complete collapse of the limestone bedrock above the cavern. Cenotes were used by the Mayan civilisation on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico for water supply. Interestingly, the same principle for water storage was also used by the Romans, as seen in the Temple of Mercury in Baiae, Italy, an ancient Roman bath built in the 1st century BCE and constructed as a dome with an oculus at the top.
Temple of Mercury, Baiae, Italy, unknown photographer
In technical terms a dome shaped construction allows the evaporation to accumulate and form droplets on the curved ceiling. The water drops will then run down along the walls by following the curvature of the dome to be returned to the water in a circular movement of recycling of evaporated water that minimises the loss of water due to evaporation. The round opening of an oculus at the top of the dome provides natural aeration and functions as a vent for controlling the air pressure as the water table fluctuates inside the dome. This ancient technology can be adapted and used in modern hydrological development for water storage.
research study, 2021