Water unsafe to drink at historic fountain flowing in front of Nevada capitol, attorney general’s office
August 24, 2017
The historic water fountain in front of the Attorney General’s office and the state capitol is flowing and will remain in operation through the summer.
Buildings and Grounds Facilities Manager Jon Vietti said the fountain was repaired last fall, put back in operating condition for the first time in decades through the efforts of B&G electrician Joe Miller and plumber Don Milner.
The solid granite fountain was a gift to Carson City by the Hermon Lee Ensign National Humane Alliance in 1909. Originally erected in the center of the King Street/Carson Street intersection, it has a large bowl holding water for horses to drink from and tiny bowls at its base for dogs and other small animals.
But Vietti emphasized people shouldn’t drink the water because it recirculates over and over again much like a swamp cooler, refilling with fresh water only when the level drops and opens a valve.
“I wouldn’t even let dogs drink it,” said Vietti adding when they first started it up this summer, “algae grew really quick in there.”
Milner said when he restored the fountain’s plumbing all sorts of debris fell into the bowl of the fountain and birds play in the water as well so it’s anything but sanitary.
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Vietti said they’re now cleaning the fountain weekly, “making sure it doesn’t get too much junk in it.”
He said they’re also adding chlorine tablets to keep it relatively clean but that it’s still not safe to drink from.
The fountain was moved out of the street when the Supreme Court building was constructed, shutting down King Street.
The fountain will have to be shut down when winter comes to prevent damage from water freezing in the pipes and pump.
Ensign was a wealthy animal rights activist who, in the early 1900s, donated about 125 of the fountains to cities in the U.S. and Mexico. But as cars and trucks replaced horse-drawn wagons and carriages, they quickly became obsolete.
While many have been removed, some 70 are still publicly viewable but only a few are actually in operating condition like Carson City’s.
Carson’s fountain is also one of the few that still sports the light fixture on top.