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Bathroom Reader’s History of Plumbing

Posted on 09 November 2017 by sam

Plumbing–the most important invention we never appreciate until it’s gone. Plumbing has been around for millennia, and it plays a major role in our health and in our society. Here’s a brief timeline of some of the hallmarks of plumbing.

2600 BCE. Almost as soon as humans switched from a nomadic lifestyle into an agricultural civilization, they started developing systems to carry water. In the Indus Valley Civilization (circa 2600 BCE), citizens developed basic pipe systems to transport water, as well as bathing areas with drains and basic septic tanks.

2000 BCE. The ancient Chinese developed basic pipelines out of bamboo, although we have evidence for deep-water wells in China long before that.

1900s BCE. First evidence of a flushable toilet in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks also developed pressurized shower systems.

800 BCE to 476 CE. The plumbing system of ancient Rome is one of the most famous examples of early plumbing. The first sewers in Rome date from between 800 and 735 BCE. Roman plumbing grew to include public baths, a complex sewer system, and indoor plumbing. The Roman aqueducts allowed for large volumes of water to be transported to people to use for bathing and drinking and then be flushed away! You wonder if they employed professional drain cleaners. Unfortunately, the Romans built their pipes with lead, and some scientists hypothesize that the “madness” that comes from lead poisoning played a large part in the downfall of the Roman Empire.

1596 CE. John Harington invented a flushable toilet as a present to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. Although the Queen was enthusiastic about the toilet, she was apparently terrified of the sound it made when it flushed.

1531-today. “Sewage farms,” some of which still operate today, provide a method of disposing of wastewater by applying it to crop production. Sewage farms were and are used all over the world.

  1. The English Regency Shower was created, which pumped water from a lower basin to a cistern directly above the bathers’ head.
  2. The first commercially available toilet paper appeared. Bless.
  3. The first sewage treatment plant in the United States was built in Worcester, Massachusetts. Water treatment and safety had become a concern with the Industrial Revolution, and more and more polluted water went into the streets, bearing waterborne illnesses. Other methods of treating water include desalinization, chlorination, and fluoridation
  4. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanicals Officials was established and began work on a sanitation code and code to fight against bad plumbing practices.

1950s. High-pressure water jetting was invented. Hydro jetting is a method of cleaning and unclogging drains and pipes by shooting high-pressure water streams to remove buildup in pipes. Hydro jetting is still used today, and captures, filters, and reuses water.

1974 to present. In 1974, the US passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, and from that point, the US has continued to pass and amend legislation regarding water safety, efficiency, and usage to ensure sanitation and conservation.

  1. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals include access to plenty of clean water on a global scale.