Benefits of installing a water fountain
Before discussing the aesthetics of fountains and their water use it might be appropriate to acknowledge that fountains also serve practical purposes.
Fountains can be used for noise mitigation. The sounds of splashing, flowing or moving water can mask bothersome noises. A person seated by a fountain in a park or courtyard hears the fragile sounds of water rather than distracting city noises. Although mitigating noise is a practical application of a fountain, the desired result is to create a more pleasant environment and thus an aesthetic purpose also is served.
Fountains sometimes are specifically designed and installed to mitigate noise. A fountain's ability to mask noise is in direct proportion to the loudness of its water sounds. A fountain with a high-pressured flow dropping or falling from a significant height into a pool or onto a hard surface would create clamorous water sounds. These could mask relatively high volume noises.
The surrounding area or setting of a water fountain also affects its potential to mitigate noise. For example, a fountain in a courtyard surrounded by brick walls creates a different effect softer, more absorbed sound than does a fountain amidst tile or stainless steel surfaces. The latter reflects more sound and has more potential to cover louder noises. The presence of walls or other surfaces can focus and direct the sounds of a fountain.
A fountain also can be used to cool an area. For cooling to occur, a fountain must be active, with water and air mixing to encourage evaporation and a cooling effect. The more interaction between water and air, the greater the potential for cooling. For example, a reflecting pond, with a smooth, flat surface, obviously exposes less water to the air than does a misting system spraying small particles of water directly into the air. A fountain that sprays water into the air thus cools more effectively.
A fountain's potential to cool an area also depends upon ambient conditions. A fountain located within an open square surrounded by concrete won't provide much relief from the heat of the sun. More comfort would be provided by a fountain within an enclosed area with shaded surfaces. Fountains installed on the north side of buildings and walls are sheltered from the sun and thus provide better cooling. Trees and vegetation also provide shade.
By increasing evaporation and dispersing the cooled air, air flow or currents also influence the cooling potential of fountains. In the Middle East fountains are designed to better take advantage of air flow to increase a cooling effect. A small hole or opening in a wall would capture the prevailing wind, concentrating and directing it over the fountain. Increased evaporation results, and the cool air is transported beyond the fountain and into the interior of courtyards or buildings.
By creating micro-climates, fountains can make a cooling difference within a relatively small area or zone. Fountains are a good strategy to mitigate the heat island effect of large urban areas.
The Aesthetic Benefits of Fountains
Along with serving practical purposes, fountains also provide aesthetic benefits. All fountains, even those designed for a specific use, are generally aesthetically pleasing. To cool air or mitigate noise, water must move, and moving water attracts and appeals. Aesthetics therefore is built into almost all fountains.
At their best fountains are monuments to the fascination of water. That water is beautiful, even in an irrigation ditch or flowing from a tap, is easily overlooked. Water play in fountains is water out of the context of every-day usefulness and provides an opportunity for humans to appreciate the power and attraction of water. Fountains especially allow urbanised people, far removed from natural sources of water, to indulge in the pleasures of free flowing water.
Water has an emotional or aesthetic appeal that, if noticed at all. That modern society does not have cultural beliefs or rituals to honor water does not mean the affective or aesthetic qualities of water go unnoticed or unappreciated. Water indeed fascinates all humans, regardless of their cultural background. Something ingrained within the human psyche responds to the splash and flow of water. Water soothes and relaxes, inspires reflection, and is a source of beauty. Further, water has spiritual qualities recognized in religion and ritual, from baptism to death.