Tracing the History of Water Filtration Advancements
- 12 May, 2022
Did you know that water treatment originated around 2000 BC? We'll follow the evolution of water treatment technology from its beginnings to the present. From boiling to filtering our drinking water, here is the history of water filtration advancements.
Learn About the Origins and Key Developments in Water Treatment Practices
While several civilizations worldwide still do not have access to clean water, water treatment is not a new technology. It has a long and illustrious history, dating back thousands of years.
Let's follow the history of water treatment from its beginnings to today, from ancient methods to new technologies.
Water Treatment Starts in Ancient Times
Ancient Greek and Sanskrit manuscripts reveal that water purification techniques advanced 2000 BC. Ancient peoples recognized that heat could purify water, so they used sand and gravel filtering and boiling.
Ancient peoples aimed to improve the taste of their drinking water. They wanted to minimize the water’s turbidity, but were unaware of chemical pollution and microbes.
Around 1500 BC, Ancient Egyptians developed coagulation. As depicted in Amenophis II and Ramses II's tombs, Egyptians utilized alum to accomplish suspended particle settlement.
Around 500 BC, Hippocrates discovered the healing qualities of water. He developed the Hippocratic sleeve, the first bag filter, and created water sieving. The purpose of the water sieve was to remove sediments that gave water a foul odor or taste.
Between 300 and 200 BC, Rome began aqueduct construction. At this time, Archimedes devised the water screw.
The Assyrians created the first water transport building in the 7th century BC. This structure was a 32-foot high and 100-foot-long bridge that transported water over 50 kilometers across a valley to Nineveh.
The Romans eventually rebuilt many of these structures, and named them aquaeductus after the Latin words for "water" and "to lead." The aqueducts were complex structures that used gravity to carry water across large distances. Aqueducts supplied the Roman Empire's major towns and industrial areas with water.
Over 500 years, Rome built eleven of these aqueducts, totaling over 250 kilometers. Most of these aqueducts were underground to protect the water from pollution. Many of them still stand in Spain, Turkey, Germany, and France, supplying Rome with approximately 250 million gallons of water every day. Many of the techniques utilized in aqueduct construction are still used today in modern water transportation systems.
Water Treatment Is Reborn after Fading Away
As the aqueducts crumbled with the Roman Empire, water purification lost priority. During the Middle Ages (500-1500 AD), civilizations did little to ensure access to clean drinking water.
When Sir Francis Bacon began trials in saltwater desalination in 1627, he restarted water treatment practices. He attempted to filter salt from saltwater using sand filtration. Although his experiment failed, he established the framework for other scientists to enter this field.
In the 1700s, the earliest water filters included materials like charcoal, wool, and sponge. In 1804, Robert Thom designed Scotland's first municipal water treatment system. Slow sand filtration treated the water, and then community volunteers distributed the water using horse-drawn carts. Three years later, engineers and smiths built water pipelines, and many began advocating for total access to clean water. Unfortunately, this is still not a reality in our world.
Then, in 1854, another breakthrough occurred: experts in Italy discovered that a cholera epidemic was upon them and spread by water. They learned that the outbreak was less severe in places using a sand filtration system. The scientists determined that sewage water had contaminated the water pump, and John Snow, an English physician, employed chlorine to disinfect the water. As a result, the practice of water disinfection and chlorination grew.
The water smelled and tasted fine, but those in charge of setting up this central water distribution system realized they couldn’t yet ensure its safety. As a result, towns built municipal water filters, and governmental water regulations surged, leading to explosions in population and advancement.
Water Treatment Advances Into Modernity
In the 1890s, various United States towns and municipalities across the country began constructing huge sand filters for water purification. They used a jet stream to clean the filter and increase its capacity. Filtration performed better with coagulation and sedimentation, according to researchers. Water chlorination grew popular, and waterborne infections like cholera and typhoid became less of a problem than in the past.
Quickly, scientists realized that chlorination has detrimental consequences. Experts began looking for alternatives after learning that chlorine vaporization caused respiratory illness. Belgium first employed calcium hypochlorite and ferric chloride in 1902, and France first used ozone in 1906. Citizens began to utilize household water filters to protect themselves from the harmful effects of chlorine.
In 1903, Scientists learned that water softening techniques desalinated water. In 1914, the U.S.P.H.S. (or the United States Public Health Service) created coliform growth standards for drinking water in public transportation. However, these water regulations did not apply to municipal water sources until the 1940s. The Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, which developed the premise that everyone has the right to safe water, took another thirty years to enact.
Public health concerns about drinking water moved from disease-causing microorganisms to manufactured pollutants like pesticides, chemicals, and industrial sludge. New rules addressed water contamination and waste from industrial processes, and water treatment plants reacted to these hazards. New techniques like active carbon adsorption, aeration, and flocculation evolved to prevent health risks. Researchers developed the first membranes for reverse osmosis systems in the 1980s. Water treatment plants soon began conducting frequent water risk assessments to ensure safety, leading to a huge decrease in waterborne illnesses in many communities.
The history of water filtration advancements is long and complex, and directly reflects world civilizations. If you seek a water purification company that provides high-quality point-of-use or point-of-entry systems, reach out to Premier H20 today! We offer a vast amount of filtration fixtures to ensure that we are your one stop shop for all your filtration fixture and accessory needs in any and every situation around the house or workplace!