What’s the first thing we do in the morning when we eventually drag ourselves out of bed? My wife would definitely put the kettle on. Me, I usually make my way to the porcelain throne (toilet) and then a hot shower before heading off for another work day.

What do all these things have in common? Water and plumbing systems that’s what.

Imagine if we didn’t have the convenience of turning on a tap and within seconds are supplied with hot water or cold water. Or going to the toilet and not have a flushing mechanism and piping system to carry our sewer waste away? Things would get messy, real messy.

With sewer waste comes all sorts of wonderful diseases of which there are 4 types:

Bacterial- Cholera, E.Coli infections, Dysentry, and Salmonellosis.
Viral- Hepitis A, SARS, Polio, and Gastroenteritis.
Parasitic- Guinea Worm Disease, Dwarf tapeworm infection, River Blindness and Hydatin disease.
Protozoal- Amoebiasis, Cyclosporiasis and Giardiasis.

These are only a handful of the diseases that a healthy plumbing system protects us against.
These diseases can be spread through direct or indirect contact. Meaning that people can actually touch the waste(direct) or be in contact with animals, insects or water supply that has been contaminated(indirect). Like flies, cockroaches or dogs and cats.

Contamination may come as a result of overflowing sewer from blockages, breaks in pipes, uncovered or broken septic tank lids, leach drains too close to water sources, eg creeks, bores, and something as small as not washing your hands properly.

I mentioned having a hot shower in the morning at the start. Well there’s bacteria for that as well? It’s called legionella pneumophila. This causes legionaires disease.

You see usually by having water stored in a warmish tank like a hot water system, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for legionella bacteria. One thing that a correctly and fully functioning storage hot water system will do however is keep the water inside the tank at a minimum of 60 degrees celcius always.

This is because it was discovered that legionella bacteria thrive in water conditions between 25- 50 degrees celcius. So, to kill off any bacteria present in the water it has become law that all storage hot water systems, gas, electric, solar and heat pump units, anything with a tank that stores water for a period of time, is to heat the stored water inside the tank to a minimum of 60 degrees celcius.

So going back to the start where we were discussing going through your daily routine in the morning. We are lucky enough to be in a country like Australia where technology, laws and wealth have enabled us to have the right plumbing infrastructure and systems to deal with sewerage waste problems of everyday living and be able to drink from our taps knowing that we are protected from all these diseases that have potential to harm us.

Plumbing systems have come a long way since the first signs of advanced sanitary and water transportation methods were developed during Egyptian and then Roman times. (I’ve seen the Roman aquaducts, amazing achievement for the times) Advances in plumbing technology will continue to push forward as we find better more efficient ways of providing a safe system to an ever increasing population.

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