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Last edited 14 Sep 2021
The term 'plumbing' refers to any system that allows the movement of fluids, typically involving pipes, valves, plumbing fixtures, tanks and other apparatus. Modern plumbing may also involve the movement of gases such as fuel gas.
The etymology of the term ‘plumbing’ comes from ‘plumbum’, the Latin word for lead. This is because the first effective pipes used for the movement of water were lead pipes used by the Romans. After the Second World War, increased awareness of lead poisoning resulted in copper piping taking precedence over lead.
Although ancient Greek, Persian and Indian cities had used primitive forms of plumbing, the Romans were the first to pioneer expansive systems of plumbing, such as aqueducts, the removal of wastewater, and other sanitary features.
Today, plumbing systems might be used for:
- Heating and cooling.
- Waste removal.
- Potable cold and hot water supply.
- Water recovery and treatment systems.
- Rainwater, surface and subsurface water drainage.
- Fuel gas piping.
Qualifications obtained by plumbers may involve:
- Foundations courses.
- National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs).
- Specialist qualifications.
Watersafe is a free online directory and national accreditation body for competent and qualified plumbers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It brings together seven existing Approved Contractors’ Schemes:
- The Water Industry Approved Plumbers’ Scheme (WIAPS),
- Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC),
- Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE),
- Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF),
- Anglian Water’s APLUS,
- Severn Trent’s Watermark and
- Thames Water’s TAPS.
- Installation, repair or servicing of a gas boiler.
- Installation, or repair of a gas fire, gas cooker or hob.
NB Water safety in buildings, published by the World Health Organization in 2011, defines -plumbing as: ‘The piping, fixtures and appliances within a property; and all the work associated with the design, installation, removal, alteration or repair of piping, fixtures and appliances in connection with drinking-water supply, non-drinking-water supply and drainage systems that flow in and out of buildings and between given connection points to points of use or disposal (World Plumbing Council Working Group, 2008).’
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