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War of the 'noses': Are Rome's eternal drinking fountains running dry?

People drink water from a fountain in Rome, Italy July 4, 2017. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 05, 2017, 04.04 PM (IST)

Baking summer heat has forced Rome to close some of their iconic drinking fountains known as "big noses", or "nasoni", that constantly gush fresh water on thousands of street corners, causing a public outcry. The fountains are as much a part of Rome as the Colosseum or the Tiber River.

Hit by the soaring temperatures drying out southern Europe, the Italian capital has started turning off up to 30 of the 2,800 distinctive curved metal taps every day, dismaying Romans and prompting concerns homeless people would become dehydrated. Fountains on tourist trails will be left open, the mayor said.

The Movimento 5 Stelle, or 5-star movement, is the acting ruling party in Rome, which advanced the proposal to make citizens pay for public water. Ironically they were the same party behind a massive referendum against water privatisation in Italy six years ago.

Shutting down some water fountains could benefit the agriculture sector. In Lazio (Rome's region) many farmers are forced to strictly manage their last water resources due to a water crisis.

Brandishing a plastic bottle in the central Piazza Venezia, city resident Carmelo Teti said,"When I go around I fill up this bottle with water, because to buy mineral water costs and I cannot afford it."

A woman cools off next to a fountain in Rome, Italy July 4, 2017. (Reuters)

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Romans say that the nasonis also benefit runners, tourists, poor people and animals.

In a letter to Rome's mayor, Virginia Raggi, water company Acea blamed the "exceptional drought" for the temporary measure and said: "We are absolutely aware of the inconvenience that might be caused."

The company said it was committed to replacing and fixing the city's decayed and ruptured pipes, which according to consumer group Codacons leak 40 per cent of the water they carry.

Several consumers associations, like Codacons and Eco Italia Solidale, point out how the nasoni only account for one percent of Rome's water supply, but help in keeping sewers clean and watering plants in public places.

Part of the plan is also to help limit the amount of water taken from picturesque nearby Lake Bracciano, whose sinking surface level has prompted a local campaign to protect it.

The Committee for the Defence of Lake Bracciano was critical, saying: "You won't save Lake Bracciano by leaving Rome's homeless thirsty," echoing a warning from the Red Cross.

(With agency inputs)

 

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