The city of Venice, built on saltwater marshes and crisscrossed by canals, experienced problems with its water supply for most of its history. One fifteenth-century French traveler noted that "in a city in which the inhabitants are in water up to their mouths, they often go thirsty." How was the community to solve this important problem? Water drawn from the lagoon (the large, shallow body of water between Venice and the Mediterranean Sea) and the canals within the city served many domestic uses such as washing and cooking inventories of even the most modest households list of large numbers of buckets, which were emptied and rinsed, the ones used to carry the brackish (somewhat salty) canal water were kept separate from those intended for fresh water. Still, even serving such needs would have been impossible if the canals of Venice had been extremely polluted. The government was obliged to impose controls, and in the early fourteenth century, the Great Council prohibited the washing of all cloth and dyed woolens in the canals, adding that water used for dyeing could not be flushed into the canals. Henceforth dirty water of that sort was to go into the lagoon. Thanks to resistance on the part of the dyers, infractions were many, the law did not reflect common practice. A century later, however, most of the dye works that used blood or indigo (a dark blue dye) had shifted to the periphery of the city, as had all activities "that let off bad odors or smells", such as butchering. Blood, carcasses, and spoiled meat were to go into the lagoon. The canals of Venice began to be protected in the name of nascent ecological awareness. Much more stringent measures were necessary to guarantee a supply of drinking water, however. In the early centuries of settlement in the lagoon basin, the populations depended on wells on the nearby coastal region. By the ninth century, however, with the increase in population density, cisterns became necessary. Basically, the cisterns were large, covered pits dug into the ground and lined with clay to hold water. The cisterns were located in the city, but unlike the wells, the cisterns were not supplied with water from the lagoon, they collected rainwater instead. Cisterns became widespread in the growing city. Over a period of several hundred years, Venice developed an elaborate system of cisterns and gome – the gutters or pipes that carried rainwater to the cisterns and that, for a single cistern, might extend over an area of several streets. Wealthy households had their own cisterns. In less affluent areas of the city, cisterns were often owned and maintained by neighborhood groups. In crowded parts of the city where landlords offered small house for rent, one or two cisterns were provided for each street. A network of public cisterns paralleled these private and semiprivate arrangements. Every public square in the city had a cistern to serve the poorest venetians. In the thirteenth century, a decision was made to create 50 additional cisterns, primarily in the recently urbanized area at the edge of the city. At the same time, a campaign was launched to repair the existing cisterns. Expansion of the cistern system stopped during much of the fourteenth century as Venice, like other cities in Europe, suffered from bubonic plague. In the fifteenth century, however, a new program of cistern construction and repair was undertaken. In spite of the expansion of the cistern system, Venice continued to have problems with its water supply, especially during dry periods. Flotillas of boats had to be dispatched to the mouths of nearby rivers – first to the Bottenigo, then to the Brenta – to fetch fresh water. The fresh water was then sold by the bucket or poured into the cisterns. The public authorities made efforts to take bolder action to ensure the supply of fresh water from this parallel source and a number of projects were suggested during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to channel river water and even to construct an aqueduct. However, the high cost of such initiatives precluded their execution.