Ancient China

History of water supply, sanitation and drainage.
Wastewater Reuse Activities
Ancient China
Roman Empire
Islamic World
Medieval Europe
Classic and early modern Mesoamerica
Sewage farms for disposal and irrigation
Modern age
Bristol, Liverpool, London and other cities, UK

A Chinese, Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD) period ceramic model of a pulley water system within a well.

Archaeological evidence has shown that wells date back to ancient China where some of the earliest water wells have been discovered and excavated. Deep drilled groundwater was discovered for drinking water by The Neolitic Chinese and The Book of Changes, a Western Zhou Dynasty text, describes how the ancient Chinese built and managed their wells and how they savoured their water sources. A preserved Neolitic well was discovered at the Hemedu excavation site and it consisted of several rows of logs with a supporting frame which was fastened to the top of the well. From a similar time period, there are believed to be sixty other wells, southwest of Beijing, built for irrigation and drinking, but these were made from tiles.

Evidence of a communal water supply and sanitation system, that featured many more modern features, has been found in Asia and was developed by the Indus Valley Civilisation. For example, in Lothal, an Indus City (c. 2350 BCE, ), each household featured its own secluded lavatory which deposited waste into nearby lakes and water sources. The system was so advanced the Maya had pressurised water and the waste was alternatively sent into cesspits which were well maintained and cleared regularly- which was very advanced for its time.

Non-rural parts of the Indus Valley Civilisation featured both domestic and communal private baths. These featured below ground drains, meticulously built with carefully placed bricks, and several reservoirs were used to create an advanced water management system. Within this advanced water system, drains from households were joined with larger collective drains and terracotta pipes and open channels were used to export waste from the top of the house into the collective drains on the street below.

The first documented case of urban sanitation was in Harappa, Mohenio-daro, and Rakhigarhi, which was only recently discovered as part of the Indus Valley civilisation. Citizens of the town would collect water from the nearby wells either within their households or in larger groups. They had a designated room for washing and the waste water was channelled onto the street and into the public covered drains.

Evidence of some of the most advanced sewage systems of the ancient world have been found in the ruins from the Indus Valley civilisation, like Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan. These featured devices like shadoofs (which were used to raise water to surface level), draining chutes, street ducts and rainwater harvesting.

The use of underground clay tubing to transport water supply and for sanitation was first introduced by the Ancient Greek Minoan civilisation of Crete. The civilisation’s capital, Knossos, had a sophisticated system that brought in clean water to the city, took waste out of the city and featured sewage tunnels for waste in case of heavy rainfall. The Minoan civilisation also created one of the world’s first flushing toilets, in the 18th century BC, as they built stone sewers that carried waste away when clean water was passed through them. As well as flushing toilets, the Minoan civilisation was the third civilisation to have plumbing that used pressurised water after the Greeks of Athens and Asia Minor. Pressurised water was used to fight fire in the City of Alexandria by the Greek innovator Heron.

Glass coated pipes were used in an inverted siphon system in the royal households of Crete and these remain in working condition, almost 3000 years later.

Roman Empire