Etang de Montady: The Drained Pond of Montady

Jun 2, 2015 2 comments

If you look up Montady on Google Maps, in the department of Hérault, in southern France, you will see a strange agricultural field. Long lines of irrigation ditches radiate out from a central point, like spokes of a bicycle, with triangular farmlands occupying the narrow strips of land between the ditches. This area was previously a pond, or rather, a brackish marsh with stagnant water that was the source of many outbreaks of diseases. So in the 13th century a decision was made to drain the swamp and make best use of the land by cultivation.

Étang de Montady, or “the pond of Montady”, was drained in 1270 by digging radial ditches from a single center point out to the extremities. The center being lower in elevation compared to the rim, the water flowed towards the center and were drained out through an underground culvert and through the Malpas hill and under the Malpas Tunnel of the Canal du Midi. The 420 hectares of land recovered were planted with many vineyards that goes into the production of fine French wine.



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Source: Wikipedia /


  1. I would be surprised if this drainage scheme dates from 1270, as written. I suspect it was a typo and it happened some 700 years later.

  2. Apparently IT WAS drained in the 13th century, although facts are a little fudgy as presented.

    What is referred as a culvert - a rather modern concept - is actually a drainage tunnel built in the 13th Century. This tunnel took water away from the centre of the depression to a creek going west (ruisseau de Montady). Only later it was connected to the Malpas Tunnel which was excavated in 1679 under the hill d'Ensérune. The Canal du Midi dates from the same period.

    There is a good explanation on the history of this drainage scheme at the link (although in French)


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