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Water in Paris, Part 3: Non-Drinking water

A series on Water in Paris.
Part 3: Non-Drinking water

In the 19th century, Baron Haussmann, who was in charge of reorganizing Paris to make it more sanitary hired Eugène Belgrand as Director of Water and Sewers. Mr Belgrand with great foresight created not one but two water systems. One of course for treated drinking water which is expensively processed stuff and the other a network of non-potable from the canal Saint Martin and the Seine.

water in ParisThe less expensive untreated water is used for watering parks, decorative fountains and cleaning the streets. There are 12,000  bouches de lavage from which water flows into the gutter. They are turned on by sanitation workers with green brooms and directed by soggy rolls of old carpet. The water flow and the green broom push the accumulated debris along to the sewer openings. Tout un système!

The non-potable water is also used in the high pressure sprayers that clean up after markets and festivals. 1 600 kilometers of streets are sprayed down at least once a week. The Péripherique’s tunnels, lighting, signage and road bed are regularly washed during nightly closures and the quais are also hosed down once a month or after the Seine overflows the banks. And who can forget the unique moto-crottes – the 1990s motorcycles equipped with tanks of water, a vacuum and pressure wands to suck up and wash away dog-poo. Moto-crottes, though innovative, were expensive and only were able to pick up 20% of the mess for an annual cost of 4.5 million euros, so they were abandoned in 2004.

This blog by Norman Ball, a Canadian professor explores more about the 2 water systems in Paris.

One of the reservoirs of non-potable water, a haven for ducks and gulls, makes for a unique view from the apartments which surround it. It is in the 16th arrondissement near rue de Lauriston. The reservoir de Passy has  two basins called Copernic and Bel Air which store 56,000 cubic meters of water. The water in these basins is pumped out of the Seine at Auteuil on quai Louis Blériot right next to the Pavillion de l’Eau.  The pumping station dates from the 19th century and used to require 70 people to keep it running. Today one person is sufficient.  Enjoy photos of the inside and outside of the reservoir here.

This article is the third in a series on Water in Paris. Revisit this site for future installments.

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