Breil’s agriculture has developed through the control of erosion and irrigation, by setting up a few thousand kilometers of terraced walls and several tens of kilometers of irrigation canals that have transported water from springs and gullies, to sites that were a priori too arid for cultivation.
The old waterworks – adapted to the topographic complexity of the neighborhoods of the town – constitute a remarkable heritage complex.
The channels were created before Breil joined France and have always been managed by the beneficiary. These rights related to the soil were acquired through participation in their construction. The water entitlement was proportional to the initial contribution in hours of work and money. It was defined by days and time slots, night included. Every year, in mid-May, the beneficiaries used to begin checking, cleaning and repairing the canal. In peak season, a tour de role was established for the periodic checks.
The abandoned canal that fed the olive grove of Casté (east of the village), from a catchment in the ravine of the Carleva to more than one kilometer to the southeast, passes in the cliff overlooking the Porte de Genoa. This remarkable work, which is still in good condition, has been excavated and built in a folded Cretaceous wall.
The “siphon bridge” is located at the edge of road RD 91, south of Piène-Haute. It measures 22 m long and is less than a meter wide. Four broad bricked arches semicircular carry it. This penstock allowed the canal water to Olivetta to cross the lower zone of a valley by putting it under pressure between two basins, in a pipe made of nested terracotta sleeves.