Happy World Plumbing Day! It’s true: the World Plumbing Council and World Health Organization have set aside every March 11th as a special day to highlight the importance of plumbing, and bring increased awareness to the plight of those that live without it.
The disaster in Flint, Michigan has brought new and much-needed attention to the aging and failing infrastructure of the United States, illustrating the incredibly important and often unseen role plumbing plays in our lives. Public health and plumbing go hand in hand – a fact that’s easily forgotten in the industrialized world, where the majority of people have ready access to clean water and waste removal. Outside of tragic failures like Flint, we rarely find reason to consider where our water is coming from, how we get it, or how we deal with our waste.
The developing world, as we all know, is not so lucky; the link between plumbing and health is vividly embodied every day. Open defecation is still a thing in a disturbingly large part of the world, and simply providing toilets doesn’t seem to be enough. In some parts of the world, women and girls still walk miles everyday to retrieve water of dubious quality, while schoolgirls too often “hold it” for fear of shame or sexual assault, made all too easy by a lack of adequate facilities. While there’s clearly a need for improvement and reform, solutions are hard to come by, and even harder to implement.
It’s no exaggeration: we could not be the wealthy and powerful country we are without the foundation that the art and science of plumbing provides. It’s not a bad place to be: when’s the last time you worried about how you were going “to go” (beyond a dirty seat in a public restroom)? When did you not have access to (relatively) clean water? When these kinds of things aren’t a concern, the sky is the limit.
And that, we think, is what World Plumbing Day is all about. Obtaining clean water and disposing of bodily waste is a foundation upon which every other aspect of a successful society relies upon. World Plumbing Day asks us to reflect on the innumerable benefits this trade bestows upon community and culture, and to find ways to increase its prevalence in those places still struggling. Despite all the jokes and negative perceptions so common in the industrialized world, the fact remains: plumbing truly does protect the health of a nation, and will always be the first line of defense against sickness and disease. Effective plumbing systems are a bridge to greater things, and we join the World Plumbing Council and WHO in this day of recognition and appreciation for all the things plumbers and their designs do for our world.