Waste water treatment


In praise of sewers

Sewers are an under-appreciated part of daily life

I recently finished reading Water 4.0, which describes the history and potential future of our water systems. For me, it was most interesting to learn that sewers were so important to daily life in the Roman Empire that there is a goddess of sewers: Cloacina.


My immediate reaction was: awesome! I remember learning about Roman gods in high school, like Jupiter, the king of the gods, Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, and Mars, the god of war. Maybe I missed the day when we covered sewers.

Still, I think the Romans were on to something. Sewers play an indispensable – and underappreciated – role in sanitation. I suspect that sewers are something that many of us take for granted. But can you imagine life without this essential infrastructure? Today, more than one-third of the world’s population do; they lack access to improved sanitation.

So the next time you use the faucet or flush the toilet, pause and give thanks to Cloacina.

(Interestingly, in animal anatomy a cloaca is a vent opening for the digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts. All amphibians, birds, reptiles, and a few mammals have cloaca.)

Michelle McCrackin