Everyone pretty much takes plumbing for granted. For most of us, it’s just a fact of life. It’s so common that we don’t even think about it anymore. But before you get too comfortable about your ideas and knowledge of plumbing, here are some statistics that’ll blow your mind.
Toilets Then and Now
The first sit-down toilet, invented in India during 2500 BC, was a true revolution. Better still, the first flush toilet, connected to crude plumbing, was first used in ancient Crete circa 1500 BC. Today, seated flushing toilets are seemingly everywhere in the U.S, but worldwide, the most common toilets are either squat toilets or bidets. Squat toilets require no seats, and are used exactly as the name implies. Bidets are essentially regular toilets with water jets installed for personal cleaning. Although both are strange concepts to Americans, we are a minority when it comes to seated toilets.
Just like flush toilets, we tend to take indoor plumbing for granted. Imagine how life would be if you had to haul water for bathing or for dishes. Although this was how our ancestors lived, modern families for the past 100 years never had to worry about hauling water (or so you may believe). However, it is calculated that as many as 1.6 million Americans still do not have indoor plumbing. Not for bathing, not for dishes and not even for flushing toilets.
The two main areas without plumbing in the U.S. are the entire state of Alaska and a large area in the lower Southwestern United States. Virtually, every state in the union possesses some areas, mostly rural, that do not have indoor plumbing. Of all things, outhouses are still in common usage in these areas.
Supplying Water to the Masses
We can all thank the Romans for building open air aqueducts that channeled water to homes and public buildings in about 52 AD. This is considered the first modern plumbing for the masses and some ancient Roman aqueducts still survive to this day.
Amazingly, that technology fell by the wayside for centuries and by the middle ages, plumbing was considered an afterthought. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution, beginning in the late 1700’s, that new indoor plumbing designs began to appear.
In 1829, Boston’s Tremont Hotel became the first hotel in the world that offered indoor plumbing and by 1833, indoor plumbing appeared on the first floor of the White House. The first modern sewer system was built in Chicago in 1885 and that heralded piping and plumbing that could supply water to the masses. With the advent of a reliable and capable sewage system, this allowed plumbing to be available for anyone who could afford it.
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Fresh Water for Everyone
Although there is plenty of water in the world for everyone, making it drinkable and getting it where it needs to go is another thing altogether.
Israel: Take Israel, for example. This desert country is fronted by the Mediterranean Sea. That means there is plenty of water available. Since it is sea water, it must have the salt removed before it becomes drinkable. To that end, Israel employs a gigantic desalination plant that uses the process of reverse osmosis essentially filtering the salt out of the water to supply about 6% of the total drinking water needed in the country.
China: China has a different problem on its hands. There is plenty of fresh water available but it isn’t in the right places. To remedy this, they are building a huge water pipe system called the North-South Water Transfer Project. It will channel water from the south where there is plenty of fresh water and send it out to the west, the north and to the central parts of the country. When completed in the 2050’s, this massive undertaking will ensure that fresh water will flow to virtually every part of the country.
United States: Perhaps the most intriguing way to make sure that people have fresh water is the Groundwater Replenishment System in Orange County, California. This system literally purifies used waste water to drinking water standards, it gets injected back into the ground to act as a barrier against infiltrating sea water and then reused when more groundwater is needed for consumption. It is the largest waste water conversion system in the world.
A Most Important Invention
There can be no doubt that plumbing must rank as one of humankind’s most important inventions. Innovations such as flush toilets, indoor showers, waste water reclamation and even such a basic amenity as modern personal hygiene, would never have happened without plumbing.
And if you have any questions about your very own plumbing, from tankless water heaters, maintenance or new installs, contact Fenwick Home Services. We have been serving the Jacksonville, Florida area for years with quality work and customer service.
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