Geneva Landmark Jet d'Eau is a Reminder of Industrialization

The Jet d'Eau is the tourist attraction best known in Geneva, Switzerland. The majestic water fountain in Lake Geneva is one of the largest fountains in the world. What many don't know: The impressive waterspout is actually a leftover from the industrial development of the city in the 19th century.

In 1886, a novel power network was opened linking the various factories with water pipes carrying water from the River Rhone. The water was used to power the various mills wheels. Power had become a transportable commodity. But when the factories closed down in the evening, the power of all that water produced excess pressure dangerous to the pipe system.

To relieve that pressure during the night, a valve was built ending in Lake Geneva. It was situated more down river than today's location and sent water up 30 meters. It became an attraction for locals and travelers almost immediately.

For the 600 year jubilee of the Swiss Federation in 1891, it was moved upriver and enlarged to send water up 90 meters. It was enlarged again to its present power to send water 140 meters into the sky. An enormous amount of electricity is used to keep 7,000 liters of water in the air at all times during the day. Ironic, considering it had been devised to do the opposite at its inception.

The power supply made up of 20 pumps and the pipe system linking bakers' mills, printing presses and watchmakers' hammers is not in use anymore. When these factories closed down, the water would rise during the night until needed again in the morning. Today, the fountain works during daylight and is large enough to be seen from an airplane travelling over Geneva at an altitude of 10,000 meters.

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