Today is Public Service Appreciation Day, and we are taking this opportunity to say “Thank you” to those whose job it is to provide us all with clean drinking water.
The history of water infrastructure is a long and interesting one. It is believed that Romans were the first to introduce indoor plumbing as early as the 17th century, but this technology remained stagnant until the 18th century. Increased population made finding a way to deliver water to more homes necessary.
Although available, water wasn’t treated until 1910 when U.S. Army Major Carl Rogers Darnall compressed liquefied chlorine gas for purification purposes. Not long after, Major William J. L. Lyster of the Army Medical Department used a solution of calcium hypochlorite in a linen bag to treat water. This type of treatment was standard for ground forces in the field and camps for many decades and even led us to the purification process we use in present day water treatment facilities.
In 1804 the first documented use of a sand filter was recorded, and in 1855 the first regulations for water treatment and safety were written in London. These regulations set the precedence for the rest of the world. Although the water was filtered, it wasn’t until 1905 that chlorine was permanently used to disinfect water.
It’s amazing to know that it was only just over a century ago that humans invented and designed water treatment facilities allowing us to enjoy one of the most basic needs in the most convenient way possible. Let’s not take that for granted. We need to continue to be amazed by the human ingenuity and be thankful for, and to, those that make it all possible.
If you would like to learn more about the processes here a couple of links to some very helpful Infographics.