Water is life – and life on earth is linked to water.
Our existence is dependent on water, or the lack of it, in many ways, and one could say that our whole civilization is built on the use of water.
This article examines the influence of water on public health throughout history.
Farming and the development of settlements lead to the beginning of the problem that faces mankind today –
how to get drinkable water for humans and cattle and how to manage the waste we produce.
The availability of water in large quantities has been considered an essential part of civilization throughout the different periods:
Roman baths needed a lot of water, as do the water closets and showers used in current Western civilization.
The importance of good quality drinking water has been established for years.
However, the importance of proper sanitation was not understood until the 19th century.
This article outlines the importance of water throughout history.
Special attention is paid to the first urbanization of ancient civilizations, particularly in ancient Greece and Rome (Vuorinen 2007).
However, the second, third and fourth phases of urbanization are also briefly described.
Finally, the major findings and their implications for current water management and policies are discussed.
Early Systems and Innovations
Modern humans (Homo sapiens) have dwelled on this earth for some 200 000 years,
most of that time as hunter-gatherers and gradually growing in number.
Approximately 50 000 years ago modern man began to inhabit every corner of the world and people were constantly on the move.
Occasionally people were troubled by pathogens transmitted by contaminated water, but the general aversion for water that tasted revolting,
stank and that looked disgusting must have developed quite early during the biological and cultural evolution of humankind.
It has been postulated that the waterborne health risks of hunter-gatherers were small.