Plumbing and Public Health

Plumbing and Public Health

Plumbers are Important for Your Health

Sometimes it is easy to forget the reason quality plumbing is so important. Between the shiny tap-ware and swish new toilets . . . take a look at the new $10,000 toilet that is on display in Las Vegas this week – it’s self-flushing, self-cleaning and does away with toilet paper altogether . . .

The $10,000 Toilet!

It can be easy to forget that plumbing, and the role it played in supplying clean drinking water and sanitation, was possibly one of the greatest contributions to improving public health in the 20th century.

Before modern plumbing practices, tens of thousands of people died from illness and disease that were spread because of poor or non-existent sanitation systems or unavailability of clean drinking water. Colera, typhoid, yellow fever and outbreaks of diarrhoea were common and caused many deaths.

Unfortunately, we still have away to go with over 3 billion people dying annually from preventable disease related to water and sanitation – mostly children under 5. Given this frightening statistic, the United Nations marked 2005-2015 as the international decade for action on Water for Life.

With the decade coming to a close it is interesting to read the advancements that have been made in this time and where progress still needs to be made. Some of the major wins over the last decade include:

    1. Growth and development of UN-Water, with its global political support resulting in unprecedented progress for water and sanitation
    2. Drinking water targets were met 5 years ahead of schedule, but 663 million people still access drinking water from unimproved sources in 2015
    3. 68% of the total world population now has access to latrine, flushing toilet or other improved sanitation facilities (this figure missed the Water for Life target but demonstrates we are on the right track)
    4. 80% of countries have embarked on reforms to enable the environment for better water resource management.
      • This is an important development as competition for water resources is seen as a major risk for businesses into the future
    5. Finally, public awareness campaigns have increased including introduction of World Water Day and World Toilet Day.

I am no expert in this area, however the statistics on sanitation systems/clean drinking water and links to public health are compelling. It helps to remind the plumber in me, that my day-to-day tasks are in a small way ensuring the health and safety of my community and world in which we live.

The World Health Organisation and World Plumbing Council summed it up perfectly:

Three roles a competent plumber must assume

      1. To design, install and maintain drinking water supply and waste removal systems
      2. To manage the health and financial risks associated with plumbing
      3. To help conserve the limited supplies of safe-drinking water.

A great mantra to work by!


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