The History of the Plumbing Industry

As humans, we have a very important relationship with water as well as how we obtain it.

It is also important to consider the history of water and the systems that we have developed in order to manage it, especially as it is one of the major reasons we’re still surviving today. How did our water systems develop and how were they maintained throughout history? Let’s take a look back at the system that allows us to drink water from our faucets and flush our toilets.

Roman Empire

Early civilizations discovered that large populations needed access to freshwater and that consuming bad water could cause disease or be fatal. The same thing was discovered about lead in water. Many of the pipes used in the Roman aqueducts were lined with lead which resulted in health issues.

The Roman aqueduct was a channel used to transport fresh water to areas that were highly populated and displayed incredible engineering aspects during this time period. Earlier civilizations in Egypt and India also built aqueducts, however, Romans improved the structure and built an extensive and complex network across their territories. These aqueducts were made from a series of pipes, tunnels, canals, and bridges, and the water that flowed in was used for drinking, irrigation, and supply baths and fountains.

The Industrial Revolution

After the fall of the Roman Empire, advancements in plumbing were at standstill for nearly 1,000 years. Without clean water and waste removal, people had to throw out their waste in the streets which resulted in awful smelling cities. The wealthier people had access to iron pipes, however, these pipes dumped the waste into the streets as well.

When America began to fight for its independence, inventors became more popular and the cities became more modern. In 1728,  the first underground sewer was installed in New York, and in 1830, the first public water main was installed there as well. To follow was the invention of drainage pipes to take sewage away from buildings to a disposal terminal. In 1848 the United States Congress passed the National Public Health Act. The act gave all communities access to water mains and drainage pipes which resulted in a huge decrease in diseases and ranked the United States as the top leaders in modern plumbing.

The Industrial Revolution led to many advancements in technology that have impacted the way we use water today. Without these advancements, we wouldn’t be able to take have hot water, drink freshwater, or even flush our toilets.

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