Of all the modern conveniences we take for granted, perhaps none is as profoundly basic —and indispensable—as indoor plumbing. Carrying fresh water into our homes and taking waste water away, the pipes in our condo or co-op buildings are the fine line that separates us from our not-too-distant (also very aromatic and very unsanitary) urban past. When plumbing fails, it doesn’t take long to realize just how much we depend on it.
Looking back, it was only a few generations ago when, according to information compiled by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, the state’s “early inhabitants dug canals through the islands and mangrove forests of Florida. They wanted to provide more efficient canoe travel in the coastal areas. The settlers dug wells and built dams on rivers seeking more constant sources of drinking water. As Florida’s population grew, so did competition between urban, agricultural, and industrial interests for dependable, inexpensive water.” (Source: http://fcit.usf.edu/ florida/lessons/water/water.htm)
The same report also states that in the 1900s, developers drained swamps and low-lying areas to increase the amount of land available for building homes and growing crops. Indoor plumbing has come a long way from the days of carrying in buckets of well water, but bringing water to the residents of a multifamily building is much different compared to a single family home. It also comes with its own set of challenges.
Although Florida is surrounded by water, having enough drinking water available for its entire population has become a critical issue. Each day, Florida has over 5,900 regulated water systems serving 16 million residents.
“Piping systems are not a lifetime building component—they don’t last forever,” says Josh Shrock, a general contractor and vice president of commercial operations at Specialized Plumbing Technologies in Dania Beach. “Cast iron sanitary pipes have a life expectancy of 50 to 75 years, and properties located on or near the coastline are an exception. Here in Florida, it’s not unusual to see pipes failing prematurely in 25 years or less.”