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.
It was in the 18th century that a rapidly growing population fueled a boom in the establishment of water supply networks. I've searched most of the sources referring to Water Supply, History of Water Supply, Water Tariffs.
There is no exact date or institution mentioned as tax or tariff initiator. I suspect that it will match the scientific discoveries of the 17th - 18th century in fluid mechanics.

  • 1
    The title asks for "tariffs and taxes for water supply", but the body reads as though you're asking about "water supply networks". Can you clarify which is the one you want? Or are you treating the two as being linked from the start?
    – Semaphore
    Apr 8, 2015 at 18:00
  • Are you including both public and private systems? Private water supply systems that charged people for water go back to antiquity. Apr 8, 2015 at 18:13
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    Which geography/country/state, or is it the first instance in any part of the world that you are looking for?
    – Rajib
    Apr 8, 2015 at 18:40
  • I believe that there were functional tariffs on water supply in ancient Mesopotamia and China. They may have been paid in labor rather than coin, but maintenance of public irrigation was an obligation to the state.
    – MCW
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:08
  • i would hazard their could have been taxes on water during droughts, in ancient times.
    – Himarm
    Apr 8, 2015 at 20:49

1 Answer 1


Specially for you, a remarkable book survives, and there is even an excellent English translation with technical commentaries. And free on the Internet:


Frontinus was a noble who was appointed by the princeps (Nerva) to supervise the water supply system of Rome. He decided to study thoroughly the history and technology related to this business (he did not want to rely on "engineers", who even if they were not slaves, where very close in status). He wrote this book for himself, but also for his successors.

It has complete data on construction and taxation of Rome's aqueduct system since the times it was introduced.

  • If you add brief summary of water tariffs (i.e. paying for consumption amount) introduction during the last couple of hundred years. It will be ready to be accepted.
    – Ziezi
    Apr 9, 2015 at 10:52
  • @Simplicis Veritatis: 1. I do not care whether you accept or not. 2. I gave you a source, freely available, in English. If you are really interested in your question, read it.
    – Alex
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:05
  • @ Alex what I was just trying to point out that if you have as equally as good source for the second part of the question considering tariffs (payment per quantity used) in the 17th, 18th century (as indicated by the tags), there will be no reason for that question to be opened, as it will be fully answered.
    – Ziezi
    Apr 9, 2015 at 12:15
  • @simplicis veritatis: Sorry, I misunderstood you. I do not have any sources for 17, 18 century (but I suppose they must be easier to find; a Roman source is a real exception). So do not close the question.
    – Alex
    Apr 9, 2015 at 20:11

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