Plumbing is a system of connected pipes, valves, and tanks used to move gases and liquids into and around buildings. Systems include heating, cooling, and drinking and waste water. Plumbing systems are very important to public health, as they provide clean drinking water and take away potentially harmful waste water.

Modern day plumbing systems bring clean, fresh water to homes and take away waste water and sewage. They also provide access to other utilities such as gas. Modern systems can also transport rainfall water to stop flooding. The words "plumber" and "plumbing" are derived from the Latin word for lead, plumbum.

Plumbing originated in various early civilizations around the world. As they started to build larger towns and cities, they needed to create more advanced plumbing systems. The earliest of these advances were wells, and the first permanent wells were dug in around 6500 BC. Containers could be filled with water from the wells and carried by hand. Ancient Roman civilizations had more advanced plumbing systems compared to other civilizations at the time. The Romans created a system of aqueducts to move water into towns and cities. They also developed systems to bring clean drinking water into the homes of richer Romans. Early Roman civilizations also constructed systems to remove waste water.

After these early civilizations, plumbing technology didn’t progress much for hundreds of years. With the onset of industrialization, countries needed to find new ways to deal with the increased amounts of wastewater and sewage. A larger number of people moved into cities as the need for workers surged. London was most affected by this because it was the first city to industrialize. In the early 19th century, the River Thames was heavily polluted. It was being used to carry sewage away from the city of London. The river had become a source of many illnesses in the city, such as cholera and typhoid. A complex system of pumps and sewers carried the waste water away from the city and people.

Modern sanitation systems include plants, which process waste water making it safe to return it to the environment. Solid waste is filtered out and recycled or placed in landfills. Microorganisms are used to break down organic molecules. This water can be then safely reintroduced to waterways.

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