When Was Plumbing Invented: The Interesting History

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An average adult uses the bathroom at least 6 to 7 times a day. But, like all other routines, we don’t really think about it that much. Has it occurred to you how all these modern-day bathroom amenities came into being? 

All the bathroom amenities, HVAC, water supply, and body waste disposal come under the category of plumbing. Hence, plumbing is responsible for keeping our bathroom and therefore our home clean, contamination and disease-free. 

While modern-day plumbing is a recent development in human evolution (not more than 200 years old), the earliest use of plumbing dates back to 3500-4000 BC. In this article, we would discuss the evolution of plumbing.

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History of Plumbing and Major Milestones

Plumbing has played a major role in the growth of many ancient civilizations. Starting from the Indus Valley civilization and Roman Empire, plumbing has come a long way. But from the very beginning of these civilizations, humans started to understand why plumbing is important to maintain hygiene and keep diseases at bay.

Let’s look at the timeline to understand how this plumbing revolution slowly unfolded.

4000-3000 BC – The Origin Of Sewage System

The first evidence of plumbing was in the form of sewage found around 3500 BC. Historians have long credited the town of Mohenjo-Daro (present-day India and Pakistan) as the birthplace of sewage systems. 

Every household used to collect water from wells and the wastewater was cleared through covered drains that were connected to the main drainage system along the main street. All the houses, even the most insignificant ones, were connected to the public drainage system, thereby confirming the importance of sewage at that time. 

500 BC-AD 476 – Developed Plumbing System

During the Roman Empire, simple plumbing structures evolved into complex and sophisticated systems that paved the way for modern-day showers, sinks, tubs, and toilets. 

From the countryside, water was transferred via aqueducts to water storage tanks. Then the water was supplied to individual houses through pipes. They had hot and cold water and extensively developed sewage systems. 

The only mistake was the replacement of old pipes with lead pipes that led to lead poisoning and innumerable deaths.

1596 AD – First Flushing Toilet

In 1596, Queen Elizabeth I’s godson Sir John Harrington invented the flushing toilet and he has been credited with that since with calling the flushing toilet itself “The John”. 

1829 – First Hotel with Plumbing

The Tremont hotel of Boston was the first hotel to design and incorporate indoor plumbing in the US. The hotel offered indoor toilets with running water and the guests had the opportunity of taking a shower indoors. 

1848 – National Public Health Act

The National Public Health Act was passed in England for water safety and health concerns after a severe cholera outbreak. This has been regarded as the first public health act which has been followed in many countries ever since. 

The 1930s – Development of Plumbing Codes

The 31st president of the US, Herbert Hoover, and Dr. Roy B. Hunter have been credited with the development of the first Plumbing codes. It was named Hoover Code in honor of Herbert Hoover.

2003 – First International Standards

The non-profit International Code Council has been formed to develop model codes, regulations and formats to be implemented throughout the world for safe, durable, and affordable plumbing systems.

Plumbing Regulations

In modern days, most of the inhabited places follow a plumbing regulation by the government or quasi-government agencies due to their effect on public health and safety. The installation and repair work usually require licensed professionals certified by the authorities. 

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency along with the local and state governments regulate the necessary codes of building regulations. They ensure compliance with all Safety and welfare acts including the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

Interesting Facts About The History Of Plumbing

There are several interesting facts about plumbing that not many people know.

Leaky faucet

The US has the water conversation law and the US Energy Policy Act, which are in place to regulate the wastage of water which even controls the water flow rates in your plumbing fixtures including the toilets. 

However, did you know, a leaky faucet, dripping only two times a minute can waste one gallon of water in one week? And with a faucet dripping every second, you can waste up to 2000 gallons of water every year? 

Forbidden Winter Bath

In the Mid 19th Century, some towns made it illegal to bathe in the winter without a registered doctor’s permission, because of low sewage regulation. There were chances of diseases due to dirty and unsafe water conditions. 

Toilets with sensors

Toilets with sensors came into being long ago–around 40 years ago in Japan. However, they have been adopted in regular homes very slowly since then.

Famous Plumbers

Apart from Mario and Luigi, the two famous characters from the world of games, there have been several celebrities who have been associated with plumbing and some who wished they were a plumber.

Ozzy Osbourne was a plumber’s apprentice before he turned towards music. Michael Caine was also a plumber before he started acting. 

And once even Albert Einstein said, “If I Had my life to live all over again, I’d be a plumber.”

How Did Plumbing Change the World? 

Plumbing has been responsible for keeping us safe from diseases and an unhygienic environment. Soon after the fall of the Romans, these safe plumbing practices were tossed and hence followed a plague that killed one-third of Europe. There have been several instances where cholera caused thousands of deaths. 

Due to modern-day plumbing and plumbing regulations, these plagues have been largely eradicated and our overall living standards have become better multifold.


So that was all about the history and evolution of plumbing over the centuries. The modern plumbing codes and regulations have been hugely successful wherever they have been applied and the future promises the development of plumbing systems that require less water and maintain hygiene. 

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