The history of human civilization is entwined with the history of the ways we have learned to manipulate water resources. The earliest agricultural communities emerged where crops could be cultivated with dependable rainfall and perennial rivers. Simple irrigation canals permitted greater crop production and longer growing seasons in dry areas. Five thousand years ago settlements in the Indus Valley were built with pipes for water supply and ditches for wastewater. Athens and Pompeii, like most Greco-Roman towns of their time, maintained elaborate systems for water supply and drainage.
As towns gradually expanded, water was brought from increasingly remote sources, leading to sophisticated engineering efforts, such as dams and aqueducts. At the height of the Roman Empire, nine major systems, with an innovative layout of pipes and well-built sewers, supplied the occupants of Rome with as much water per person as is provided in many parts of the industrial world today.
This article was originally published with the title Making Every Drop Count.