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Water in the Karst: village ponds, drinking troughs, water holes and wells

Today, the traditional water reservoirs in the Karst help preserve biodiversity.

Owing to the typical porosity of the karst soil, surface waters are rare and all the more valuable. Yet water has always accumulated in natural hollows in which clayey soil accumulated, creating a water-sealed bottom. People started following the example of nature and building water reservoirs in natural hollows that were mostly named ponds (Slovenian ‘kali’ or ‘lokve’). These carefully built reservoirs were regularly cleaned and used for collecting drinking water for people and cattle alike, while in winter the ice used to be broken into pieces and sold in the Italian town of Trieste. In steeper and shady hollows, which cattle could not access, the locals kept clean drinking water and called such water sources ‘štirna’ (a well). They would bring clean drinking water home and also filled village troughs with it for use by all villagers. When more modern water reservoirs started being built in the Karst, the village ponds were left for the cattle, but later they lost their function completely.

Some renovated ‘kali’ village ponds have retained the image of this local peculiarity and importantly contribute to keeping the biodiversity of the Karst. You can explore Karst ‘kali’ as part of educational hiking trails. The Trail of Nine Ponds close to the villages of Kobjeglava and Tupelče links nine renovated ponds and also takes you to a shepherd’s corbelled hut. The From Cattle to Wild Animals trail, which starts in the Famlje village, leads to water reservoirs that are today the home of many water plants and animals. The renovated village ponds, wells and water reservoirs, along with natural springs and the biggest ice pit in Slovenia, can be seen during the Water Treasure Trail, winding along the edge of the Škocjan Cave Park.

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