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A Brief Overview of the History of Plumbing

The modern plumbing system is an often overlooked but essential component of our day-to-day lives. It is difficult to imagine a life without flushing toilets or perfectly heated showers in our bathrooms!

But how did we get to where we are today? It took the work of some innovative plumbers Wellington based as plenty of mistakes as they need. Here are some achievements that have influenced modern-day plumbing.


Ancient plumbing systems

As it turns out, plumbing has a long history – dating back to around 4000 BCE! Archaeologists recently discovered the existence copper water pipes located in palace ruins in the Indus River Valley, India, suggesting that humans have been working as plumbers for a while. Similarly, copper pipes dating back to 2500 BCE were found in Egypt, where they were used in bathrooms, sewage and irrigation systems.

We can thank the Romans for the flush toilet; they were advanced plumbers who developed aqueducts, private and public baths, underground sewage systems, water piping, and even marble fixtures replete with gold and silver fittings. Their introduction of lead pipes in 500 BCE allowed for ground-breaking improvements in sanitation.

The island of Crete has also been found to be abundant with ancient plumbing dating back as far as 1500 BCE. Their plumbing system included a crude flushing toilet and a bathtub made of pottery. Additionally, rainwater cisterns were used as storage for drinking, cooking and bathing water.

It took quite a while for plumbing to catch on in Western Europe. Iron pipes emerged in Germany around 1455, and the first flush toilet was built in England in 1596 by Sir John Harington. Later in France in 1664, King Louis XIV had a cast-iron plumbing line built throughout his palace.

And New York? Well, it received its first underground sewer in 1728 after health officials decided to respond to people complaining about the scent of open sewers. By 1830, New York also had a public water main, which allowed for improved water supply for fire fighters throughout the city.


Modern-day plumbing

Plumbing as we know it today started to become big following the passing of the National Public Health Act in 1848. Since then, the majority of the globe has adopted this plumbing code.

Plumbing boomed over the next century or so, with drainage piping systems being fitted into buildings in order to move sewage to an appropriate disposal area. In the 1870s, water heaters started to be installed in private homes, and circulation pipes were used to ensure that pressurised hot water was made available in large amounts.

After the proving of venting theory in 1874, vent pipes started to be used at trap outlets to prevent foul odours and gases from leaking at the outlets. Laws started to be passed across large areas of the U.S. requiring systems to be installed using a minimum amount of fixtures. Next, people started to create hundreds of different flushing toilet designs, some of which would become U.S. standard. The formation of The Building Officials and Code Administrators in 1915 allowed for the coordination of plumbing codes on a national scale. A shortage of copper led to the use of plastic piping in modern plumbing in 1966.

By 1961, all facilities were required to be easily accessible to people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George Bush in 1990. Since then, the U.S. has adopted the Energy Policy Act which restricts rates of water flow in fixtures, and plumbing is now overseen by the International Code Council (ICC) rather than three separate agencies as it used to be.

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