The progress of a society may be judged by the way in which it disposes of its human waste material, and thus by the quality of its sewerage system (Mumford 1961, chap. 8). In the ancient world, the Greeks and Romans put great emphasis upon town planning. Roman cities were famed for their sewers, drains, aqueducts, paved streets, and roads. Domestic plumbing ranged from marble bathrooms with under-floor heating and indoor toilets in upmarket villas to basic latrine provision for the Roman army, as found, for example, alongside Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain (Greed 2003). Following the decline of the Roman Empire, waste disposal returned to more primitive methods. Most ordinary people used an outdoor “privy,” while nobles often had an “indoor” toilet built out from the wall of their castle, hanging over the moat. In the Christian West during the Middle Ages, indoor plumbing, or for that matter personal hygiene and privacy, were not highly esteemed marks of civilization or progress, although washing and bathing, and bathhouses, were given higher priority in the Muslim East (Bonneville 1997).
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You are sitting in your living room and hear what sounds like water dripping. You check all the sink faucets, toilets, tubs, showers, spigots. Nothing is on that you can see. You return to your chair. You still hear the sound. It’s not the dishwasher or washing machine either. Not the ice maker in the freezer. What is making the sound? You retrace your steps, this time checking inside the cabinet under each sink. Ah ha! There it is. Your kitchen drain pipe is dripping. Leak detected.
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