Our shared water monuments

By Strauss Water Canada
October 10, 2014

(Photo credit: Slunia/Wikimedia Commons)

For millennia, people have marvelled at the beauty of water. In many of the world’s great cities, public fountains celebrate that most primary of resources: water.

In ancient and pre-modern societies, fountains served multiple purposes. Greek, Roman and Muslim societies were all known for their magnificent public and private fountains.

Fountains were often the end of aqueduct systems, which used gravity to bring fresh drinking water from rivers and streams into the cities. Greek fountains frequently ended in sculptures of animal heads, with water spouting into marble and stone basins.

The Romans are legendary for their aqueducts, public baths and fountains. Their skill at moving water from the mountains to their cities and farmlands is one of the major reasons their civilization was so successful. Fountains were more than just a way to provide drinking water; they also served as entertainment for the people and as monuments to the empire’s leaders and Gods.

Fountains and water gardens were also prominent across the Islamic world. From the fountains of Arab rulers, where many of the Roman and Greek engineering practices were maintained, to Persian water gardens, and to the famous fountains of the Alhambra in Muslim Spain, fountains were an important part of life. They provided water to the people, relaxing gardens for rulers, and held religious significance.

In more recent times, the need to distribute water to the public via fountains has decreased. Our fountains today are much more often for display, serving as exhibitions of the magnificence of water or to commemorate individuals or moments from our common past.

Many fountains have gone beyond simple displays and have now achieved the status of monuments to water itself. The great musical fountains are especially noteworthy, as they take these spectacles to a new level of magnificence, incorporating music, lights and multiple spouts. They are a truly arresting show.

Cities like Las Vegas in the United States and Kolkata in India have made names for themselves through their fantastic aquatic displays. One of the best shows in Las Vegas is outside the Bellagio hotel, where numerous water spouts create jaw-dropping displays. These fountains are state-of-the-art, with computer-guided systems operating over a thousand water nozzles in a choreographed dance in a nine-acre lake.

Like the Bellagio, the CESC Fountain of Joy in Kolkata adds music and lights to create the most unique water show in India. With a three tier fountain pool, 150 spouts, lights and music, it provides a stunning exhibition. Its central display is 6 metres high and 18 metres wide, with specially designed valves that allow it to launch water spouts at unbelievable speeds.

What are your favourite water fountains? Does your community have any noteworthy monuments to water?