Water and Waste Management Through the Ages 

Water and Waste Management Through the Ages 

Every day, families across America walk into their kitchen or bathroom and get fresh hot water within seconds, straight from the tap. While most of us enjoy the benefits of advanced sanitation and waste management, we forget how much innovation and time has gone into the process along the way. At Mr. Rooter of Atlanta, we provide quality commercial and residential plumbing services in Atlanta, Decatur, Marietta, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Roswell, Georgia. If you've ever wondered about the history of plumbing, here are a few interesting facts about water and waste management throughout human history.

Early Civilization

Indoor plumbing may seem like a 20th century invention, however advanced communities have had variations of household water and waste management since the beginning of civilization. In Mesopotamia (3500 to 2500 BC), households were connected to a drainage system that carried waste away from the home. Evidence for the use of latrines have also been uncovered around ancient Ur. It's interesting to note that Babylonians often tossed kitchen scraps and other waste into the street. Over time, the cities began to cover these areas with clay, creating some of the world's first paved roads. The Indus River Valley is also notorious for having incredible ancient plumbing systems, as far back as 2500 BC. Some cities had a form of primitive flush toilets, where waste would be placed in a hole, and flushed with a jar of water from the home's well. The contents would travel through a clay brick pipe that led to a centralized city drain and into a cesspit. In communities like Mohenjo Daro, where seasonal flooding occurred, citizens captured the waters in reservoirs surrounding the city, to be used for irrigating crops during dry weather.

Roman Period

The Romans took their hygiene very seriously, and were well known for their public baths and aqueduct systems. While sewer and water pipes had been used in earlier civilizations, the Romans used complex engineering techniques to create the incredible infrastructure needed to supply fresh water to multiple areas of their vast empire. They were able to use grey water from the public baths to flush human wastes through a sewer line and into the Tiber River. The wealthy had their own private toilets and baths, but it was important for all Roman citizens to be clean and tidy. Therefore, there were large public areas where men and women could have access to fresh water fountains, baths and latrines.

Medieval Era

Water and waste management went into decline in the West after the collapse of the Roman Empire. For nearly a thousand years, people in villages around Europe drew their water from wells and nearby rivers, which were often contaminated with waste and caused widespread illness. In a complete reversal of their Roman predecessors, citizens of medieval Europe believed that daily bathing was dangerous. Most households had a shared chamber pot, whose contents were poured onto the street when full. Kings and aristocrats sometimes used private rooms inside castles called a gardrobe, or privy. These small chambers were outfitted with a hole that fell over the moat or a cesspit.

Modern Technologies and Future Advancements

During the Age of Industrialization, cities grew tremendously, causing a need for better waste management. In addition, advancements in science and technology rapidly emerged, and by the turn of the 20th century, people were aware of bacteria and the need for clean water and sanitation. By the early decades of the 1900's cities in America, the United Kingdom, France and other countries began large scale water and waste management initiatives, and the era of modern plumbing soon followed. Flush toilets, showers and water heaters became a basic standard in homes by the 1960's. Advancements are still being made, as rising populations are increasing the demand for efficient and ecologically friendly waste management solutions.

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