Wednesday, 7 April 2021

F is for ... Figure ... n ... Fresh


Figuring out a fresh new topic everyday isn’t a piece of cake, that’s why it’s called a challenge I guess. One can't just turn a tap and find an idea. Or maybe one can? - faucet! 

The earliest recorded ones were in  Crete – terracotta pipes and faucets were used to supply water in this kingdom as far back as 1700 BCE. The Ancient Romans used a sophisticated water supply system for their fountains, public baths and private residences of the affluent. Fancy faucets made of gold, silver and marble were used for the well heeled, and bronze and brass for the hoi polloi. Forward thinking engineers used canals, aqueducts, pipes, valves and faucets to keep the city supplied with running water. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire, their vast infrastructure also fell into disrepair and disuse. Europe descended into the Dark Ages. The refined plumbing systems that the Romans had perfected were no longer favoured, faucets and baths were not used except by the very wealthy. People preferred to draw water from streams and wells. The practice of bathing itself stopped being a social activity in the west, hygiene standards changed. For a long period, people were inclined to wash their clothes more often rather than their bodies.

The germ theory of disease, the relationship between disease causing micro-organisms and contagion, though long theorised, was incontrovertibly established by a series of experiments by Antonio Bassi in the early 1800s. Further work was done by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch and a host of others, and epidemics of cholera were linked to contaminated water supply and poor sanitation. By the mid-1800s, plumbing and sanitation were back on the priority lists.  The first modern screw down faucet was invented in 1845, the first mixer mechanism in  1880. By the 1900s, nearly every household in the developed world had running water. Since then, turning on a faucet in kitchens and washrooms is something most of us take for granted. So much so that 'on tap' has come to mean something that's freely available.

Things are, sadly, different in the developing countries. Nearly 800 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, do not have access to clean water. And 2.5 billion people still lack access to proper sanitation.  Not an acceptable or a fair situation. 

A-Z Challenge 2021  


  1. This might be oversimplifying the problem or maybe I heard it wrong, but I heard that a teaspoon of chlorine bleach can purify a gallon of water and make it drinkable. If that's the case, a gallon of bleach could clean enough water for roughly 800 people for a day, figuring a gallon of water per day per person. And chlorine bleach is relatively cheap, a couple of dollars a gallon retail. Obviously the better thing would be to build water treatment plants and get everybody hooked up with modern plumbing, but for the time being mightn't the bleach thing be a solution?

    1. Hari Om
      Not a teaspoon, JH.. just a few drops, and that too according to the bleach on hand. However, in many places even that would be an exotic element to obtain... Yxx

  2. Felicitations on yet another Fine use of the prompt. I still feel guilty about Flushing my toilet with potable water.

  3. Hari OM
    Even in countries with 'on tap' availability and lots of natural resource, we would do well to be more measured in our usage. Drinking water is surely a basic human need and right of society and it is difficult to concieve that this is still such a major issue in our modern age. YAM xx

  4. Nice F. Interesting history of plumbing. I knew a little, like the word plumb coming from the one for lead, as in lead pipes. But, not so much detail. I do find it interesting.

  5. A plus, not an F or failure on Figuring out a bit of WTF (oops, does that word count?) for the world of plumbing. I know I take it for granted and well aware of so many who don't have proper water to drink, to bathe, to live. Another Fine post

  6. Isn't that crazy they had plumbing almost four thousand years ago and then it was basically abandoned? How many would've survived the Black Plague had it still been in use?

  7. The Roman baths fascinate me, and it's always been a curiosity to me how such technology just landed by the wayside for so long. Your point is well taken. It IS unacceptable and shameful that we aren't fairly and equitably sharing all resources, but especially those that are necessary to basic human needs.