How Plumbing Has Evolved

What would life be like without our modern-day plumbing comforts? It is difficult to imagine a life without flushing toilets, water running from a sink, and no hot water available at the turn of a handle. But this was a reality for such a long time. Plumbing has evolved a great deal throughout the years, and we're going to take you on that journey through time.

4000 BC - Pipes

Water pipes, canals, and irrigation ditches that originated in 4000 BC were discovered in the Indus River Valley. These pipes were used to transport water in and out of palaces, and later on, the Egyptians even used pipes to implement plumbing inside pyramid bathrooms.

2000 B.C. - Drainage and Sewage

Ancient engineers took advantage of natural downward slopes to create drainage paths for water to flow down. This allowed them to implement lavatories, sinks, and bathhouses. This system was made with terracotta pipes and even had perfectly constructed joints.

There was even a large bathtub found in a palace that contained a drained cavity in the floor for water to flow into; it eventually emptied into the Kairatos River

500 BC - Roman Plumbing Advances

The Roman Empire played a major role in developing many plumbing mechanisms that we still use to this day. One of their most notable inventions is the aqueduct, which was created to carry water from the countryside and into Rome. After the water made the 57-mile long journey, it would collect in tanks and then get distributed through tunnels of pipes and into bathhouses, fountains, and the homes of the wealthy. Wealthy Romans even had access to temperature-controlled water.

Along with the aqueducts, they invented some very sophisticated forms of sewers and drain systems. This made their civilization far more sanitary, and some of those sewage systems are still utilized today in Rome. The Romans also created some of the first models for sinks, showers, tubs, toilets, and drains.

While they made so many plumbing advancements, the Romans did have one misstep that proved to be fatal. They used lead piping, which was more efficient in carrying water, but as we know, today is incredibly toxic for humans. Lead levels rose to 10 times what's safe to consume in the Roman water supply and led to many deaths.

1596 - First Flushing Toilet

Flash forward a couple of hundred years, and we have the first flushing toilet in history. Sir John Harington invented this, the godson of Queen Elizabeth I. His flushing toilet included a seat, a bowl, and a water cistern behind the seat. If you've ever heard a bathroom or toilet referred to as "the john," this is why.

The 1600s - America's First City-Wide Plumbing System

Boston built the first city-wide plumbing system in 1652. This system was used mostly for firefighting, but it also had some domestic uses.

1810 A.D. - Showers

Showers, similar to how we know them today, were introduced in England in 1810. Water was pumped through a nozzle, sprayed out a fixture at shoulder height, and that water was then collected and recirculated through the shower again.

1835 - First Reservoir

New York built the first reservoir and aqueduct to transport water into Manhattan. This system was able to deliver about 72 million gallons of freshwater to the city every day.

1855 – First Sewer System in America

Chicago implemented the first sewer system in after losing thousands of lives in the mid-1800s to multiple cholera, typhoid, and dysentery outbreaks. Their goal was to eliminate the swampy conditions that allow those kinds of diseases to thrive.

They created this system by laying sewer lines above the main roads, covering them with dirt, and elevating the roads by 8 feet.

1992 – U.S. Energy Policy Act

With modern plumbing also came more water usage and waste than ever. This is why in 1992, the United States created the Energy Policy Act to reduce water-flow rates into plumbing fixtures. This act mandated the introduction of low-flush toilets and outlawed toilets that flush more than 1.6 gallons of water.

2015 – Stricter Conservation in California

California took water conservation to a new level with its strict water-saving standards. They included policies that restricted toilets that flush more than 1.28 gallons of water at a time and kitchen faucets that used more than 1.8 gallons of water a minute.

Nowadays, plumbing evolution is about making more efficient systems and fixtures and incorporating more convenience into people's lives.