Water-related Infrastructure in Medieval London

Water-related Infrastructure in Medieval London

By Roger D. Hansen

Published Online (2004)

Abstract: There were elements of London’s historic water and wastewater system which were very innovative. In the area of water supply two innovations stand out: (1) the contribution of private capital and enterprise to the construction and operation of major projects and (2) the use of water-wheels under London Bridge to power pumps and lift water for municipal and commercial use. The major disadvantage of the water supply system was its over-dependence on wood and lead. These construction materials made it an early victim of the Great Fire of 1666. In the area of wastewater and pollution control, a key innovation was the enactment of creative laws which attempted to improve sanitation and control the flow of pollutants. Unfortunately there was not a distinct separation between water and wastewater systems. This led to serious contamination of some London’s water supply sources.

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