The Oldest Court in the World: The Water Court (Tribunal de Las Aquas)

Water Court Photo: World Heritage Valencia

The Water Court (Tribunal de Las Aquas) has been sitting in the Cathedral of Valentia, Spain since 961, every Thursday at 11 am, to resolve farm border, irrigation and other water-related disputes between local farmers. The Court was created by Moorish farmers with a group of elected judges from the country who resolve all irrigation disputes once a week, in a swift and down-to-earth manner following common sense.

The seven members are elected by local farmers and the hearings are held without oaths, written records or lawyers. The Court sits on a circular velvet couch to listen and render judgment in the local Valencia dialect.

It is an egalitarian, with all members equal to each other, sitting in a circle. This court was purely oral – there was  nothing done in writing and no records kept. It is a fascinating thing to witness – a court that has gone unchanged for a thousand years and takes place in full public view. If there are no disputes to take care of, the court will simply retire and you would have made your appearance just to see them sit down and then stand up again. Which happened quite often.

In the XXI century Valencia there simply weren’t many irrigation disputes but when it  happened, it also didn’t take long, since the court is quite no-no-nonsense

Now mostly a tourist attraction, the Court dutifully sat once a week and if no-one showed up with a dispute to be resolved, the Court adjourned until the following week.


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