In Praise of Plumbing

World Plumbing Day is the time to reflect on just what the World Plumbing Council means by the motto “Plumbing improves the world”.

World Plumbing Day

World Plumbing Day (March 11) has been running for 10 years.  An initiative of the World Plumbing Council, it puts a spotlight on the critical importance of plumbing in improving public health and the day to day lives of a sizable proportion of the world’s population.

Life without Plumbing

Try to imagine your life without plumbing.  There would be no hot showers, no running water to make a coffee or wash your hands and, worst of all, no toilet and sewers to deal with your waste.  Clean drinking water and public sanitation are the greatest leaps forward ever taken in the realm of public health.

Unsung Heroes

The unsung heroes of this revolution are, of course, plumbers.  The complex of drains and pipework that make up the most important infrastructure of our towns and cities has been constructed and maintained by skilled tradespeople prepared to deal with some of the less pleasant aspects of ensuring that stuff flows where it should.

Many Millions

Many millions of people don’t have to imagine living without plumbing.  They just don’t have it.  They have to go to the toilet in the open and collect their own supplies of water.  It’s changing that unfortunate reality that is the real focus of World Plumbing Day. In the last 20 years there has been a lot of progress in turning around people’s lack of access to basic plumbing.   In that time over a billion people have got piped water.  That’s over 30 times the population of Australia.  Fewer people are being obliged to defecate in the open – a figure estimated to be roughly 22 million a year.

The Grandest Design

These are very big numbers and the importance of plumbing is a very big deal.  The host of “Grand Designs”, Kevin McCloud, says that sewerage and toilets are underrated and that “Without sanitation, there is no civilization.  Without drains, there are no cities. Without clean water, half of us die.”

But solutions bring unforeseen problems and McCloud also points out that “we should appreciate and value the fact that we flush 120 litres a day of potable water down the toilet and that there are alternatives which we should consider.”

Australian Ingenuity

One of those alternatives is the dual flush cistern, an Australian invention that has done wonders for reducing the amount of water wasted when flushing.  And plumbing rainwater tanks to cisterns can reduce such wastage even more.

On World Plumbing Day it’s worth pausing to reflect on just how vital the work plumbers do is and to consider the advances of the last few decades.  As water becomes scarcer, the inventiveness and ingenuity of plumbers are going to matter more than you might think.

Published: 6 Mar, 2020

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