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What's Buggin' You: What's with the broken fountain in downtown Sacramento?

1:58 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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What's Buggin' You with Kate Larsen

SACRAMENTO, CA - In the the heart of Downtown Sacramento, on Capitol Avenue and 16th Street, there's a fountain that most Sacramentans probably don't know exists, but not because they haven't seen it before. The fountain, a large granite sculpture, is installed between two State Department of Public Health buildings. It's in plain sight, but there hasn't been water in the fountain for ten years.

"I saw it working, it has a sheet of water coming down. It's really pretty in front of our beautiful State Capitol and then it just stopped working," says Robb Mayberry who was bugged enough by the out-of-order fountain to contact News10's Kate Larsen in search of some answers.

The fountain is called a "water curtain" because the water is meant to poor down onto the ground from two upside down L-shaped sculptures to form an aqueous sheet effect. The fountain opened in 2002 as part of the Capitol Area East End Complex, which includes the State Department of Public Health and Education buildings. But, the fountain was closed shortly after it opened, because, according to the Department of General Services (DGS), it never actually worked properly.

"There's a bit too much water that made its way onto sidewalks, which potentially becomes a hazard for pedestrians," says Eric Lamoureaux, spokesman for the Department of General Services. The fountain closed shortly after construction was complete and the DGS says they worked with the artist during the warranty period, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to resolve the drainage problems. "It's not broken, it's just not operating exactly the way we believed it would," adds Lamoureaux.

"As tax payers we put money into these kinds of projects and we expect them to work," says Mayberry who is right about the money. The State spent almost three million dollars on art installations for the complex, which supposedly included money for management costs, but the DGS made it clear in an interview with News10 that the fountain would not be fixed anytime soon. "Fixing this fountain has never been a priority project for us," says Lamoureaux.

Mayberry feels the broken fountain is a symbol of dysfunctional California politics. "Maybe it's ironic that we have a fountain not working and our State government's not working. Maybe it will get fixed when our state government gets fixed."

There's another issue at play that's preventing the fountain from being fixed, and that is water conservation. Lamoureaux says that in 2008, the DGS shut off all water features at their 60 buildings around the state. "Water situation being what it is in California, we just didn't feel it was necessary to continue to run these decorative water features at this time."

But, look around Sacramento and you'll see plenty of other water fountains running. The chief hydrologist at another state agency, The Department of Water Resources, told News10 that "the amount of water consumption is peanuts" for a fountain and that "a tree would use the same amount of water," less than 100 gallons a day.

While the DGS says they're not going to fix the fountain anytime soon, News10 put the issue on their radar.

"I've seen a lot of the stories that you have done and they have made progress in getting things turned around, operating or getting things fixed," says Mayberry.

If something is bugging you, email Kate Larsen at


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