I love drinking fountains — especially the fact that they were installed in very old homes and public places before the advent of electricity. We all know modern fountains recirculate water with the aid of electric pumps, but how did these fountains of yesteryear operate?
Take the fountains of Rome, probably the most famous in the world.
In ancient times someone realized there were lots of water sources outside Rome that were at a higher elevation than the city itself. Ergo, if one could convey the water from the sources to the town, one would have water pressure (and if desired, fountains) galore.
One then had the mere technical detail of building ten miles of more or less watertight aqueduct with a constant slope of 1 in 320 using the resources available in 312 BC. Plus ten more aqueducts in later years, the longest extending 56 miles, bringing in a total of 38 million gallons of water per day.
Plus an elaborate municipal plumbing system in which the runoff from one fountain fed others downhill from it and ultimately wound up in the sewers.
Result: 1,200 fountains (and 800 baths) that couldn’t be shut off.
The Roman public’s familiarity with the aqueduct system as an integral piece of the city’s history increases their awareness of their water supply in general.
“Unlike most other cities in the world, Rome really flaunts the fact that it has water. There’s a fountain on every third corner, there are little drinking fountains, and much of it is always flowing because it’s a gravity system so it doesn’t turn off.”
The idea, which comes from ancient Rome, is that that the public always have first dibs on the water. They know where their water comes from, how it gets to them, and where it goes.
And so they should.