Call   Call  02 9649 1099

The Evolution of Plumbing: From Ancient Civilisation to Sydney’s Sensor Flush Toilets

Whether you realise it or not, good plumbing is the cornerstone of society. Without easy access to clean water for drinking and cooking, it’s next to impossible for people to expand their minds and learn new skills. Sydney is a dynamic and ever-expanding city, thanks to such good plumbers and plumbing. Don’t believe me? Check out this history of plumbing and see how integral plumbing services have been to mankind.


The remains of a Roman aqueduct. Image sourced from Shutterstock

  • Communal Water: The story of plumbing begins about 12,000 years ago when wells became commonplace in small settlements. People would then use small vessels to carry water back to their homes.
  • No More Digging Holes: Some 10 thousand years later the first toilet came into existence in India. It even had a flush system – a pot of water would be emptied into the toilet, washing any waste into pipes and then drains under the streets. In reality, the toilet hasn’t gotten much more complex than this design.
  • Aqueducts For All: In 691 BC the Greeks created their first aqueduct in Assyria and in 312 BC the Romans followed suit with the ‘Aqua Appia’ which was built roughly 15 metres underground. The designs varied between the civilisations but the basic premise stayed the same.
  • Don’t Complain About Public Toilets: The Romans were the first to realise the need for public toilets and if you’ve ever complained about the standard of public toilets just be grateful you aren’t using an ancient Roman one – their system of toilet paper was a sponge on a stick that everyone used. Public toilets have come a long way since 315BC thankfully.
  • Flushing Its Way Into History: About 1,200 years after public toilets appeared in Western civilisation the first flush toilet was created by Sir John Harrington (not Thomas Crapper as you may have otherwise heard). It was definitely fancier than the previous medieval waste removal system of emptying chamber pots out your window into the streets below and hopefully into the coinciding drains.
  • Water Comes to You: It actually wasn’t until the 1800s that large cities in both Europe and America started installing pipes in homes for personal use. Think the date sounds familiar? That’s the time of the Industrial Revolution when technology advanced more quickly than it ever had before and, arguably, ever since.
  • Flushing With the Future:  The Japanese are always one step ahead of the Western world when it comes to technology and that doesn’t change when it comes to plumbing. They actually invented the first sensor flush toilet in 1986 removing the need to use potentially germ-ridden buttons or handles.

Every one of these plumbing advancements can be matched up to important dates in other areas of human advancement. There’s no denying that quality plumbing is what keeps us striving for better lives. If you’d like to read more about plumbing advancements take a look at How Does Pipe Relining Work?

Want to know more crazy plumbing facts?

10 Weird & Wonderful Plumbing Facts

From Plumbing to Posting: Some of Us Would Rather Have Facebook Then Flushing Toilets

Geoff James
Written By:

Geoff grew up in Berala near Lidcombe in Sydney and attended Birrong Boys High School where he finished his Year 10 school certificate. Geoff was encouraged by his uncle to consider plumbing as he had done a bit of plumbing work on weekends during his school years. DJ Childs Plumbing in Canterbury offered him a plumbing apprenticeship and he spent most of his time working on plumbing maintenance and new roofs on commercial sites. Geoff on Google+.