I am writing a fantasy novel in western medieval times.

Was tap water available then? Were wells the only option? was showering an available option?

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    $\begingroup$ Your question seems to be rather unrefined. I suggest for future questions you use the Sandbox. And i am not sure if your question even qualifies as worldbuilding as you are just asking a question about real world history. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Jul 6 '18 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ Also: have you thought of aqueducts? Even the romans had them, so the technology to transport and distribute did exist. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Jul 6 '18 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the mass categorization of this website can be confusing. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Hittfler Jul 6 '18 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ Ancient Rome had indoor plumbing, there is certainly possible to recreate it in medieval times. But it wasn't "tap water" in modern sense, because crude pipes couldn't keep water pressure very well. Romans didn't try to build water towers to keep water flowing on upper floors, that would require better metallurgy, which would unlikely be available before the renaissance. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 6 '18 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea why this is receiving close votes, but you are also getting down voted and I get that one: Doing a little bit of research yourself is highly recommended. This is not a googling and summarizing service, well, at least it shouldn't be primarily $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 6 '18 at 12:14

First thing first. What Valerio Pastore wrote about need of electricy and system to put pressure is not true.

You don't need that. I will not go into detail about what is Artesian aquifer but you want exactly that.
For example, New York sits in such basin and water pressure is strong enough to push water up to 5th (American) floor.

There are few factors that didn't "create" tap water during medieval ages:

  • industrialization in production of pipes. Hand made pipes were present during medieval ages but they cost a lot of money. We have diaries of alchemics that complain about price of equipping their lab.
  • ease of building houses without plumbing. You just dig a well at the back yard of your house and you're set. Going twice a day to get some water wasn't a chore. It's not like people needed to go back for a MMO game match.
  • having a "fake" well was still easier to make, build and maintain than whole network.

By Fake well I mean a well (or fountain) that doesn't have it own source but is rather plugged to one in a different place.

Example of medieval water supply network in Torun Source in Polish shows that we had wooden pipes that supplied water to hospitals and fountains, and that excess of water was guided back to river.

Another important thing you need to remember is that they didn't need to push water very high. Apart from castles residential buildings weren't very high. Two stores where on the upper floor you had only bedrooms. All utility rooms like kitchen were located on ground floor.

Again, it wasn't impossible to do but it was more convenient to have well and bring water to home rather than have wooden pipes with wooden spigot.

  • $\begingroup$ Forgot about artesian aquifers. Nicely done there! $\endgroup$ – Valerio Pastore Jul 6 '18 at 8:15

The best equipped cities had one or more aqueducts, delivering water to several fountains spread around the city.

Citizens would harvest water by going to the fountains and filling bushels, jars or whatever could serve the purpose of carrying water.

For those cities built close to a river or a lake, there was the option of taking water from them.

Finally, rain water could be harvested during winter and later used.

Wells were also a solution, and often used as they were more safe during siege (an enemy can destroy the aqueduct, but cannot block your wells).

For those wanting to bath the only option was to fill a bathtub of warm water and soak in it. Or, considering the struggle of harvesting all that water, a sponge bath would have been a practical alternative.

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There was no tap water in medieval Europe. Earlier the Romans did have remarkable plumbing, however this didn't last into medieval Europe.

Early Rome had indoor plumbing, meaning a system of aqueducts and pipes that terminated in homes and at public wells and fountains for people to use.

Until the Enlightenment era, little progress was made in water supply and sanitation and the engineering skills of the Romans were largely neglected throughout Europe. It was in the 18th century that a rapidly growing population fueled a boom in the establishment of private water supply networks in London.

Effectively it wasn't until the 18th century that reticulated water supply was reinstituted. This means no tap water, and also no showers. The main water supply was wells, streams and lakes.


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