Costelo, Ros A. 2020. “The Manila Waterworks System: Water Distribution, Access, and Control in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century”, Illes i imperis (22): 171-96.
Primarily considered a nineteenth-century feat, the Manila waterworks system which was formally inaugurated in 1882 is regarded as one if not the most important sanitary infrastructure achievements of the Spanish colonial government. A centerpiece public works project of the Inspección General de Obras Públicas (IGOP), it intended to provide solutions to the problems of health and sanitation in a rapidly urbanizing Manila. Used as a testament of modern engineering in the colony, the infrastructure was central in cleansing, domesticating, and transforming the urban body of the city. This paper tackles the techno-scientific innovations that characterized the Manila waterworks project to sanitize and domesticate
the murky, dirty, sickly and unruly body of the modern city. The paper traces how this sanitary infrastructure project was conceptualized and concretized, how water was located, pumped, stored, and distributed to the colonial capital. Furthermore, it interrogates how water was used both as a tool and symbol to cleanse and modernize the colonial body and colonial city. It discusses how water access, exclusion, and control led to an ideological and spatial transformation of Manila in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Keywords: Manila waterworks system, sanitary infrastructures, water distribution, water access, water control, colonial public works