A Guide to the History of Indoor Plumbing

A Guide to the History of Indoor Plumbing

In our modern-day Berkeley, CA community, we pretty much take our indoor plumbing for granted. But have you stopped to wonder about how your plumbing came about?

Like many of our home’s components, indoor plumbing began as a solution to a problem and evolved over the years, becoming better.

Here is a guide to the history of indoor plumbing.

The Early History of Plumbing

In about 3000 B.C. the first network of pipes was built in the Indus Valley Civilization (today known as India). This network of pipes was built of copper. The buildings that these pipes serviced had drains and wells.

They even had septic tanks for their bathrooms, which is similar to what we’ve still got today. In Crete in ancient Greece, the first flush toilet was invented under King Minos. Also built under King Minos’ reign was a complex rain-harvesting system that also had underground drainage.

The Next Stages

In ancient Egypt, they built bathrooms right into the pyramids. They believed that the dead still needed many of life’s essentials, which is why they supplied food and fairly elaborate bathrooms in the tombs.

A few centuries later in ancient Rome, some of the biggest accomplishments in plumbing history were achieved, when they built their extensive network of aqueducts, which supplied fresh water on a large scale throughout the city.

Also notable from the Roman era, was the use of heated water for Roman private and public baths, which served both a sanitary function and a function of status in their society. They also used lead pipes, which did a great deal to improve sanitation in the city.

The first indoor toilet is credited to Queen Elizabeth’s godson, Sir John Harington in 1596. In 1664 King Louis XIV ordered the construction of a lead pipe main sewer system, but it was many years before Versailles actually had indoor plumbing. Marie Antoinette, during her days of opulence didn’t even have toilets.

This lack of toilets goes to show exactly how essential indoor plumbing is not just for convenience, but for sanitary reasons. There were hundreds of guests and servants on hand on any given day in Versailles, with no “facilities” to use. The end result was a high concentration of people using hallways, the outdoors or personal commodes that were dumped collectively, creating a notoriously awful odor around the palace.

Eco-Friendly Plumbing Today

The next stage of evolution in plumbing has to do with water conservation. In the last few years there have been advances in eco-friendly plumbing.

Some of these include dual flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and motion activated faucets. Choosing these fixtures can help you save money on your water bills.

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