Actually it started in the first century. Read the Didache, it specifically says if there isn't any running water sprinkling 3 thimes is fine.
Well, sort of, and only if nothing better is available (in modern times we'd say 'least best alternative'ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Chapter 7
7:1 But concerning Baptism, this is how you shall baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize in living water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:3 But if you do not have running water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 And if you are not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if you have neither, then pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
'Living Water' means water that is flowing. Immersion is implied due to the use of the verb 'baptizo', which has a synonym for dipping, etc.
So, the Didache sets up a prioritization. It allows pouring water over the head of the person as a last resort. Some otherÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š folks have decided that pouring means 'sprinkling' (actually, another case for studying the word used to denote its connotation).
From a personal viewpoint, I truly hope a Catholic baptism is 'valid', because so many people have so much riding on it. I would hate to think that anyone has delayed getting baptised because they were waiting for optimum conditions to occur at their nearest body of 'living water'.
Besides, I have never seen a baptismal font in a reasonably modern Church that is directly fed by a river.... maybe there is one, but I haven't seen it. I think I have heard of churches in the Middle East that were fed this way, and the commentators would address the situation as an innovative way the ancient people solved plumbing problems. Now we see why they did so!
Also, the teaching of the Catholic Church is that one receives Christ's True Body and Blood completely and fully if they receive Host by Itself or from the chalice alone - distinctions are not made saying that if one receives only the Host, they receive Christ's body (and not the Precious Blood), or if they receive only from the chalice, they receive Christ's blood alone. Catholics are permitted to receive under both forms, or just one.
This also in one of my big pet peeves...from the Catholic viewpoint, receiving the Body also indicates the Blood is being received. I have seen the claim about receiving under only one type but the accusation is groundless based on the teaching of their church.