Indoor Plumbing: A Brief History

By: Connor Sacco

Plumbing is all around us. When we wake up to brush our teeth and take a shower to when we wash the dishes after dinner. Sometimes we take for granted just how lucky we are to have indoor plumbing, because without it our lives would be much more difficult. Most of us only consider plumbing when we actually need a plumber, but beyond keeping pipes running smoothly with fresh, clean water for daily use, indoor plumbing is a modern convenience. But where did it all begin?

 

Early History of Indoor Plumbing

The earliest use of indoor plumbing in history dates all the way back to 4,000 to 3,000 B.C. In the Indus River Valley in India, archaeologists have found copper pipes underneath ruins that were most-likely used for water. Around 2,500 B.C, the Egyptians also used copper pipes to build some of the earliest bathrooms and sewage systems. From around 500 B.C, until their collapse in 476 A.D, the Roman Empire was ahead of their time with advanced indoor plumbing system. The Romans built aqueducts that supplied water to people all around the city and out to the towns and were able to construct public and private bathrooms.

 

Modern Day History

Although ancient civilizations created indoor plumbing systems similar to the ones we have today, many of our modern plumbing systems weren’t invented until around the 19th century or later. The first water heater was invented in the 1870s and was installed into houses and some smaller buildings. Although the original flush toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, the style of flush toilets we use today were invented in the early 20th century. In 1966, plastic pipes were used to replace copper pipes in indoor plumbing systems due to a shortage of copper. During the 1980s and 1990s, the United States passed a series of acts that would enforce a restriction of water flow rates in plumbing fixtures as a way to conserve water and energy.

 

Importance of Modern Indoor Plumbing

Throughout history, indoor plumbing fixtures have gone through many innovations spanning from as far back as the ancient Egyptians and even as recent as the late 20th century. But this long history of innovation has vastly improved our quality of life and made it hard to imagine a world without basic plumbing. 

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