BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – This land in Guatemela is known as el-Peru Waka – once home to the Maya civilization thirteen hundred years ago. The work that Dr. Damien Marken is doing there could help improve the way experts look at water management. The Bloomsburg University anthropology professor has been working with a team of archaeologists to explore el-Peru and how the Maya managed their own water resources in this jungle community.

“It’s also on top of a cliff. There are no potable, no water sources up there,” said Marken.

So how did the Maya survive? After mapping the area, Marken found depressions in the land that he believed could have been reservoirs. But he needed to test that theory.

Insert Dr. Matthew Ricker, a soil expert and environmental professor at Bloomsburg University.    The research the pair has done suggests that the Maya not only collected rainwater through ponds, they developed a whole filtration system.

Marken and Ricker say their research indicates the Maya built barriers out of limestone to seal off ground water and used fish and plants to filter rainwater. Marken and Ricker’s work has garnered them attention by the National Geographic Society which granted them more than $25,000 to conduct more research into the pond system.

Scientists say research like this help communities find new ways of collecting and managing water.

“Potable water is an issue for people all across the globe,” said Marken.

But the Maya people were years ahead of their time.

“Understanding that the Maya understood what we understand today is actually a pretty big deal,” said Ricker.