Taking a shower, pouring a drink of tap water, flushing the toilet – most of us take these activities for granted.
That’s all thanks to advances in modern plumbing, which allows us to enjoy these everyday conveniences.
In 2010, the World Plumbing Council (WPC) established March 11 as World Plumbing Day to raise awareness of the importance of plumbing and the impact it has on our lives.
Here’s why all of us should celebrate.
A Brief History of Plumbing
A number of ancient cultures used some form of plumbing. Civilizations in India, China, Central America, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean all came up with systems to provide clean water to citizens and remove waste from densely populated areas.
Ancient Rome was the most advanced, building giant aqueducts that brought water into city centers and individual homes and using underground sewers to carry it away. These aqueducts were used to carry 1.2 billion liters of water daily to supply Rome with fresh water, according to Plumbing Manufacturers International.
However, when the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, their plumbing advances fell by the wayside as well, and Europe descended back into the world of outhouses and chamber pots for over 1,000 years. Poor sanitation and dirty drinking water led to the spread of diseases like typhoid, cholera and the plague, contributing to mass deaths and low standards of living overall.
The Spread of Sanitation
Fortunately, plumbing technology made a comeback and helped usher the Western world into a cleaner and more enlightened era. London began experimenting with providing fresh water to the city in the 17th century, but most other population centers lagged behind.
More modern plumbing systems also began to take shape in the colonies, with Boston building the country’s first citywide water system for fire brigades in 1652. But the most significant advances in plumbing in America came in the 1800s. Philadelphia was the first city to make the switch to cast iron pipes for water delivery in 1804, and Chicago was the first city to build a major sewer system in 1855. But indoor plumbing didn’t become widespread in this country until the next century.
At the turn of the 20th century, many people still used rain barrels and wells to get their water, while public fountains and water trucks provided it to people living in cities.
And the toilet itself? Queen Elizabeth I installed the first flushing toilet in England. The inventor of that toilet -- her godson, Sir John Harrington – is the inspiration for the slang term “john” for toilet. But it wasn't until Thomas Crapper's design at the end of the 19th century that one really caught on with the masses.
Why is Plumbing So Important?
While most U.S. homes have indoor plumbing today, that’s not the case in many parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, don’t have home access to safe water, leading to serious health and environmental consequences. Six in 10 people don’t have toilets in their houses. WHO estimates that 361,000 children under the age of five die each year as a result of contaminated water.
Things are improving, though. Between 2000 and 2015, more than a billion people gained access to piped water supplies, according to the WPC. And in that same time frame, the number of people defecating in public declined by an average of 22 million people per year.
Why We Need Trained Plumbers
Plumbing is highly regulated and has been since 1926, when the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials was founded. Plumbers, many of whom complete apprenticeships lasting several years, learn how to manage waste correctly and protect against water contamination to keep you and your family safe. They’re your go to professional when you need someone to fix or install piping systems and equipment.
Our team at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing is here to help you with all your plumbing needs, all year long. Call the experts at 1-877-BEN-1776 or request an appointment online.