Plumbing Industry Information

The plumbing industry is a mature industry. There is a vast amount of plumbing infrastructure that needs to be serviced in the US every year. Consider the number of homes, commercial buildings, and government facilities with plumbing related infrastructure. The plumbing industry generates $96 billion dollars annually in the U.S. and not one plumbing company owns more than 5% of the total market. (1)

What Is Plumbing?

Plumbing is the system of pipes, drains, fittings, valves, and fixtures installed for the distribution of potable water for drinking, heating and washing, and waterborne waste removal. “Plumbing” also refers to the skilled trade which installs and maintains it. (2)

History of Plumbing

The creation of modern plumbing with its delivery of clean water and removal of waste is credited with being one of the single most important inventions ever. Toilets and the delivery of clean water into homes are widely acknowledged to have saved more lives than anything else in the world—including modern medicine and vaccines.

  • 1700 BC - Plumbers construct an elaborate system of sewage disposal and drainage, the first of its kind, and create the first flush toilet in Crete.
  • 312 BC - Roman aqueducts carry 1.2 billion liters of water a day a distance of 57 miles in order to bring fresh water to Rome.
  • 1596 - Queen Elizabeth I installs the first flushing toilet in England, invented by her godson Sir John Harrington, hence the nickname, “the John.”
  • 1775 - Alexander Cummings receives the first patent for a flushing toilet.
  • 1855 - Chicago becomes the first large American city to build a comprehensive sewer system.
  • 1870 - Private homes begin to see the first installation of water heaters.
  • 1890 - The world’s first drinking water treatment systems are built in Massachusetts to reduce turbidity and microbial contamination.
  • 1933 - A tragic outbreak of dysentery, leading to nearly 100 deaths during the World’s Fair in Chicago, is traced to a faulty plumbing system that leaked contaminated water.
  • 1974 - The U.S. passes the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • 2014 - The Federal Law “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act” reducing lead content in plumbing fixtures from 8.0% to maximum 0.25% weighted average goes into effect. (3)

Plumbing Trivia

Did you know that…

  • Einstein was named an honorary member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union after saying publicly that he would become a plumber if he had to do it all over again.
  • A survey of 11,000 doctors by the British Medical Journal in 2007 voted that the world’s greatest medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation.
  • The word “plumber’ dates back to the Roman Empire where pipes were originally made from lead, which is “plumbum” in Latin. Those who worked with lead were called Plumbarius, which was eventually shortened to plumber.
  • Famous plumbers include: Ozzy Osborn, Michael Cain, John Farnham, and Gabriel Byrne. (4)

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