A Brief History of Sewage and Sanitation

The History of Sewage and Sanitation by Brown Drain and Sewage Services

The struggle for clean, drinkable water goes back to the earliest days of human history, and indeed, farther back than that, as all living things depend on drinkable water. This article will talk about the history of sewage and sanitation! Our ability to create civilizations largely depended on our proximity to water. As far back as 6500 BC, traces of wells have been found in the Jezreel Valley.

Once we had access to water, along came another problem: sanitation. Where can we wash our clothes, ourselves, and our dishware? Where can we use the bathroom that will not pollute our water supply or the cleanliness of our domiciles? We had to come up with the concept of sewers and drains.

The Introduction of Sewer Pipes

The Mesopotamians introduced humanity to clay sewer pipes around 4000 BCE, largely for the purpose of removing wastewater from sites, and capturing rainwater in wells. The earliest evidence of urban sanitation was discovered in Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and the recently revealed Rakhigarhi of the Indus Valley civilization. This urban sanitation system was vast. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room inside the home that appears to have been set aside for bathing, wastewater was directed to covered drains, which lined the largest streets.

Things did not improve during the medieval era. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding were widespread throughout Europe and Asia during the Middle Ages. As a result, they were besieged by pandemics such as the Plague of Justinian (541–542) and the Black Death (1347–1351), which killed tens of millions of people. Very high infant and child mortality continued in Europe throughout medieval times, largely due to deficiencies in sanitation.

The huge growth of cities during the Industrial Revolution quickly led to terribly over-polluted streets, which were a constant source for the outbreak of disease. Eventually, as part of a trend of municipal sanitation programs in the late 19th and 20th centuries, a large number of cities created extensive sewer systems to help control outbreaks of disease. The first sewer systems in the United States were constructed in the late 1850s in Chicago and Brooklyn.

The Industrial Revolution and the History of Sewage

With the onset of the industrial revolution and related advances in technology, the flush toilet began to emerge into its modern form, along with sewage treatment plants, and what we view as modern plumbing and sewer systems. Practically nobody in the developed world lives without a freshwater supply, toilets, sinks, showers, and a sewage disposal process.

Additional information about the history of sewers can be found at the amazing History of Sanitary Sewers website. Also see How Do Septic Tanks Work?

Brown Drain and Sewer in Mansfield, Ohio, is proud to continue the tradition of maintaining the servicing of the drains and sewers of families and businesses, and we look forward to being of service to you.