The History of Plumbing
Plumbing (from the Latin plumbum for lead, as pipes were once made from lead) is the skilled trade of working with pipes, tubing and plumbing fixtures for drinking water systems and the drainage of waste. A plumber is someone who installs or repairs piping systems, plumbing fixtures and equipment such as water heaters. The plumbing industry is a basic and substantial part of every developed economy due to the need for clean water, and proper collection and transport of wastes.
Plumbing was extremely rare until the growth of modern cities in the 19th century. At about the same time public health authorities began pressing for better waste disposal systems to be installed. Earlier, the waste disposal system merely consisted of collecting waste and dumping it on ground or into a river. Standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges making use of asphalt for preventing leakages appeared in the urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization by 2700 B.C. Plumbing originated during the ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations as they developed public baths and needed to provide potable water, and drainage of wastes. The Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent water theft. Improvement in plumbing systems was very slow, with virtually no progress made from the time of the Roman system of aqueducts and lead pipes until the 19th century. Eventually the development of separate, underground water and sewage systems eliminated open sewage ditches and cesspools. Most large cities today pipe solid wastes to treatment plants in order to separate and partly purify the water before emptying into streams or other bodies of water. The use of lead for potable water declined sharply after World War II because of the dangers of lead poisoning. At this time, copper piping was introduced as a better and safer alternative to lead pipes.
Another material used for plumbing pipes, particularly water main, was hollowed wooden logs wrapped in steel banding. Logs used for water distribution were used in England close to 500 years ago. The US cities began using hollowed logs in the late 18th through the 19th centuries.
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