The challenges cities face in supplying safe water and disposing effectively of sewerage and wastewater are affected by historical and environmental conditions and the long-standing effects of choices of infrastructure. This article provides case studies of two similar cities, San Francisco and Melbourne, from the mid-nineteenth-century gold rushes to 1920, to show how differences in geography and governance structure can shape water technologies in a path-dependent way. While the two cities developed safe water supplies early in their histories, these were not well integrated with sewerage systems. The use of typhoid death rates, which provide a proxy for water quality and urban pollution, reveals the impact of defective water technology on the urban environment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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