Calgary’s fire hydrant fountain project earns international attention

The City of Calgary has designed a portable water fountain that not only quenches your thirst, but also delivers a message. Doug Vaessen explains.

CALGARY – The City of Calgary is featuring a creative art project with a purpose –portable water fountains that quench your thirst, and deliver a message.

The Fire Hydrant Water Fountain Project is designed by WATERSHED+, and the hydrants are meant to “celebrate and raise our consciousness around our relationship to water,” according to the city’s website.

“It’s part of our public art program. It’s all part of some of the ways people think of art as functional, and this we think is incredibly functional as it helps to serve 300 events and festivals every year,” said  Sarah Iley, culture manager at the city of Calgary.

The lead artist for the project says the fountains have garnered  international attention.

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“Cities from all over  the place have been contacting us saying, ‘Can we have those fountains? How do we get them?’ They are Calgary’s fountains—make your own! Get an artist and make your own project,” said Tristan Surtees, an artist working with Calgary Water Services.

“In the very beginning, I didn’t even know fire hydrants had drinking water, and I think that speaks to a lot of the things we take for granted in this city.”

The fountains –called “Strangers”, “Family” and “Group”—are portable and easy to install or take down in case they’re needed to put out a fire. All three were designed and built for $30,000.

The “Group” fountain includes two spots so dogs can drink at the same time as their owners.

“Thousands of people have been able to group around these fountains, and the wonderful thing is, people say, ‘Wow, this water is really good!’ And it’s city of Calgary water,” said Iley.

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With files from Erika Tucker

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