To the typical plumbing system, the engineering behind indoor plumbing may seem almost primitive, even embarrassing. It is, after all, just a series of pipes, pumps, filters, and heaters. It can’t take videos, post photos of cats on the Internet, or allow people to connect with friends all over the world the way a smartphone can. And yet, at the same time, a smartphone can’t produce clean, safe drinking water on command, for cooking or even bathing at any time of the day. A smartphone can’t protect residents of a home from waste by quickly and efficiently carrying it outside the home where it can be processed without family members ever having to touch it. But it took humans thousands of years to get to this point.
1. Plumbing Was Critical To Survival
The story of civilization is also the story of plumbing, and it begins with the ancient Egyptians. The desert region they lived in confined them to one area for survival, the Nile River, the only reliable source of water.
But once the Egyptians learned how to make pipes from clay, they could move that water to larger areas to grow crops and spread out just how far people could live. They even pioneered the use of metals like copper for pipes, a material we still sometimes use today.
Then, centuries later, the Romans improved on their irrigation techniques. The famous aqueducts of the empire carried vast amounts of water incredible distances, straight to the settlements that required it.
But then the Romans took things a step further and let those aqueducts branch off, carrying water into select individual homes, for the first true indoor plumbing. Then they learned how to hollow out elm logs and used them as sewage pipes to carry human waste away as an early example of sewage management and disposal.
2. The Suffering of Royalty
Contrary to expectation, plumbing and engineering didn’t smoothly leap from one advance to the next, and, even in the case of society’s upper class, sometimes it took huge steps backward.
One of the 18th century’s most famous figures, Marie Antoinette, for example, is famous for her use of perfume, but she did it to hide the stink she and the rest of the French court gave off.
French palaces were built more for appearance than maintenance in mind, and so had no easy access to water, and therefore had no indoor plumbing. This meant that even French royalty could only bathe once a month.
It also meant that there was no sewage control, so both solid and liquid human waste piled up in palaces. Rugs would be stained with solid waste, urine pooled in halls, and even royal chambers had to waste piling up in corners.
3. Modern Safety & Sanitation
Fortunately for contemporary 21st-century American homeowners, people enjoy far easier water and sanitation access than the French royals of the 18th century.
Modern showers let us bathe right after a healthy workout, and modern toilets ensure that entire cities are kept safe and clean through efficient, extensive waste disposal systems.
Even when things go wrong, there’s little reason to panic. Companies like Harris Plumbing, Heating, Air & Propane take care of the entire Gloucester County, NJ area. That means that there are always qualified, experienced professionals available to quickly handle any problem and restore smooth, easy water and toilet access when we need it most.