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Dunno if this is true

At it’s height 11 aqueducts served Rome and the average citizen used 200 gallons of water a day due to this marvellous water supply.

200 gallons sounds like a hell of a lot.

The current British government plan is that we should all use no more than 120 litres a day, summat like that.

Dunno if those numbers are right. But the idea that we should all be restricted to one eighth or so of Ancient Roman water usage – for what?

20 thoughts on “Dunno if this is true”

  1. ‘Did the Romans have any practical way to turn the tap off?’


    To the best of my knowledge, no. Thus as SBML points out, a lot was just flushed through the fountains, where the average female went to get her ewer of water. If you were really rich and really well-connected, you could have a private connection built to the aqueduct.

  2. Re 120 liters a day, is that per person or per household?
    120 per person doesn’t sound too onerous.
    During the last big Australia wide drought our town was almost out of water and my wife and I did manage to reduce consumption to around 120 liters or less a day for the two of us ,but it was hard work and we don’t have teenagers

  3. @JW: We use ~180l of water a day for the two of us in spite of having showers every day, so it’s achievable, but we don’t have kids or mucky jobs, we don’t play sports on muddy fields and we don’t have medical conditions that tie us to the lavatory. Add some of those and your consumption soars. We know people with disabled kids who can’t go onto metered water because their bills would be astronomical even though the charges for unmetered water are artificially high to “encourage” people to switch.

  4. Quite a few rich Romans had gardens, some of them had water features.
    A majority of the inhabitants of Rome were slaves, so if it’s 200 gallons per citizen it’s less than 100 per resident.
    Several of the aqueducts were built by emperors largely for prestige, so the water supply was far in excess of need, even of “need” including the bath houses and fountains.

  5. For some reason water consumption varies a lot from one European country to another; particularly low for Belgium I think.

    Is consumption based on water actually used in the home or overall supply divided by population? i.e. including industrial use. Also, does it include the water that leaks from the supply.

  6. Much of what we know of the day to day operations of the aqueducts is from the writings of Sextus Frontinus who was the civil engineer in charge of them at one point in the first century AD (although there were only 9 at the time). People nicking water and leakages were two of his concerns. He wrote a book about it all – an official report to the emperor of the state of the system. Depending on the water source, some was fit only for irrigation or flushing, some used for baths and fountains and only the purest for drinking water.

    He was also a general (he served in Britain) and wrote a book about various military strategies he’d used or knew about (one besieged camp snuck some soldiers out at night and then marched them back in at first light to make the besiegers think they’d got reinforcements).

  7. In Roman times, lavatories consisted of rows of seats over channels of running water draining into sewers. Romans were fond of their public baths and laundry, plus food preparation and production. So quite possible that on average 200 gallons per capita were used per day.

  8. 200 gallons is a hell of a lot more than 120 litres (or even 180). Forgetting about the US gallon (affected by congenital dwarfism), and approximating to 4.5 l/gal, 200 gallons is around 900 litres.

    I suppose that you can cut your domestic water usage down if all the adults go out to work and the children go to school. There are other lifestyle choices that affect usage, most obviously to do with washing people, clothes (and cars), flushing the lavatory and using hosepipes for garden watering. When I first studied domestic water usage it was about 115 l/day per person, so a family with the traditional 2.4 children and 2 adults used just over 500 l/day – a half cubic metre or half tonne if you prefer to calculate it that way. Mostly, it goes down the drain, which seems a shame when all of it is treated to safe drinking water standards (in the UK).

    In places where the water is in very short supply, such as Hong Kong, much use of salt water is made for lavatory flushing, but you can’t wash in it or drink it (before it goes in the bog, obviously). Apparently, diluted by water used for washing it goes through sewage treatment plants with very little in the way of problems, although it does need an independent distribution network including pipework and service reservoirs, and understandably (because everywhere it is used is above sea level) requires a lot of pumping. (There are places in the UK where water flows from reservoirs under gravity alone, but not a big percentage).

    In a discussion a month or so ago with someone who (wrongly) suggested that the UK (and somewhere else I forget) were the only countries in the world to charge for water, I pointed out that the water itself was free, but the costs associated with treating it and delivering it – plus disposing of the waste) were what you paid for. If you collect rainwater from your roof and boil it before drinking it, it’s a lot cheaper.

  9. “someone who (wrongly) suggested that the UK (and somewhere else I forget) were the only countries in the world to charge for water”: some people are just stupid, ignorant, and lazy. There’s little that can be done about it (save for lions?).

  10. @arthur the cat thanks thanks
    From memory even 100 ls a day per person is a ask ,our washing machine is water efficient ,and we are not employed in a dirty job, but it still uses a fair bit, we have rainwater tanks and we don’t take ten minute showers .
    It’s also odd when I was in the UK it was, nice, but too green too damp for me

  11. Shirley everywhere in Europe meter water these days. I thought the UK was a bit behind everyone else. In Austria, water rates are set by the local council to whom we pay. I think possibly they meant private water companies ?

    I have met plenty of people who think that clean water is a basic human right and that we shouldn’t be charged for it.

  12. @Ottokring, Ireland tried to implement water charges based on usage and encountered mass pushback that was sufficient for them to drop the requirement* and fund water/sewerage out of general taxation.

    *After wasting several million in the process.

  13. I doubt that it is needed in Ireland, gunker. The nearest that place comes to a drought is by misspelling draught.

  14. The problem is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. Would it have been better if they had 10 or 12 aqueducts? And what is the context? How many aqueducts did Emerita Augusta have, or Nemausus?

  15. When I am lectured by greeniacs about our excessive water ‘consumption’ I ask them: ‘Where does this consumed water go?’

    They never do understand that all of the water I ‘consume’, every single drop, returns to the environment, probably most of it from sewage treatment plants. When I tell them that what I am ‘consuming’ is my money which I spend on water gathering, purifying, piping in and out of my home and then purifying again by a sewage plant, they shift to the privileged toxic white male nonsense.

    At this point I ask if we can compare water utility billings to see who’s really the toxic white Gaia hating monster. Then their evasion really begins.

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