Since ancient times man learned that, by experience, that dirty water and the accumulation of garbage, transmit diseases and that is necessary to take measures in order to have clean water and get rid of debris. This is how basic sanitation idea was conceived. The word “sanitize” comes from the Latin “sanu”, which means to become healthy, habitable, sanitized and clean.
Sanitation is a set of measures to preserve the environmental conditions, preventing diseases and improving conditions of the public health. The main activities of basic sanitation are linked to the waste collection and treatment produced by humans, such as sewage and garbage, making them harmless to health. Another important activity is quality water supply to the population.
In Ancient History (until fifth century AD), man developed some important techniques, such as irrigation, building dams and surface and underground plumbing. Sanitary measures were taken, such as Hippocrates treat “Airs, Waters and Places”, which informed the physicians about the relation between environment and health. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle used to worry about the quality of the water and sanitary measures.
In Ancient Greece, the habit to bury feces or put them away in a distant location of their residences already existed. In Rome, streets with plumbing used to function as public fountains, and in order to avoid diseases, they separated the waters served from the water supply to the population. The Sumerian started the construction of an irrigation system of terraces. Egypt started the control of the Nile River water flow with the projection of water levels during annual periods, irrigation system, construction of dams and the use of copper pipes in the royal palace of Pharaoh Khufu.
It began the construction of sewers in Nippur, Babylon, the first sewage gallery’s in the history. In the Indus Valley, streets were created with sewage channels covered by bricks, and private baths with the release of waste to the channels. Water storage in copper vessels, exposure to the sun, filtering with the use of coal or gravel and immersion of a heated iron bar. At Nimrud they began the construction of a sewer system.
In 3200 BC, in the Valley of Hindus, they used the first water system and drainage. Eastern people started creating earth reservoirs and use of underground water captivation. Egyptians and Chinese were already using drilling methods in order to obtain water from the underground in 2500 BC. 500 years later, the Egyptian civilization use aluminum sulphate for water clarification. In India, there was Sanskrit writings about the cares that must be taken with the water to be consumed, stored in copper vessels, filtering through charcoal, boiled for purification on fire by heating the sun or by the introduction of an heated iron bar in the liquid mass, followed by filtration through sand and coarse gravel. In 1500 BC, the Egyptians started the process of decantation for water filtration.
Between Bethlehem and Hebron, the Solomon dams were built, where they large cisterns were deployed to collect rainwater and raised reservoirs served by masonry tunnels, which supplied the temple and the city of Jerusalem in 950 BC. The first water supply system was created in Assyria in 691 BC, the aqueduct of Jerwan. Aqueducts were built to supply the city of Megara, and later the city of Samos, both in Greece. Water-raising works of the Euphrates River were initiated to feed the sources of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s empire.
The Roman Empire also developed their water supply system, the Aqua Apia aqueduct, about 17km long, in 312 BC. It was the first great civilization to specifically care for the sanitation, creating several other major aqueducts, reservoirs, great hot springs, public toilets, fountains, and naming Sextus Julius Frontinus as Superintendent of Waters of Rome.
Sanitation is always related to the emergence and growth of cities, which were typically created in a location near a big river, for in our multiple activities, humans need water, either to meet their basic needs or to clean their dejects. For a long period, the knowledge acquired by a civilization was confined with them, and in each new civilization, the knowledge needed to be rediscovered.