Fountain Facts

The Fountain recirculates our precious water

First, the City and Friends of the Fountain and Walk (FOFW) are intent on complying with all of the regulations of the State Water Resources Control Board. These regulations currently allow the operation of fountains, as long as they recirculate the water, which this fountain does. The fountain operates on a closed system featuring state-of-the-art diverters and high quality pumps, continually circulating the water it contains. Approximately 200 gallons of water per minute cycle through this system.  The fountain pool holds about 5,500 gallons of water.

Nevertheless, during drought times (2015), we are doing our utmost to consume as little water as possible. FOFW does the day to day maintenance of the fountain with 4 trained volunteers, who each take a month of “fountain duty” at a time.

Working with the City, FOFW develops strategies to minimize the consumption of water. In addition to turning off the irrigation for the grassy areas surrounding the fountain, we need to consider the fountain itself.

There are two main aspects that cause the fountain to consume water. The first is ordinary evaporation, and there is little that we can do about that. The second aspect is the periodic need to drain and refill the fountain for various needs. We are concentrating on this second aspect.

To alleviate the need to drain and refill the fountain, we must mitigate two major issues. The first issue is to respond to having the fountain soaped by vandals. We have responded by increasing the dosage of foam inhibitor that we add to the water. The soaping and consequent foam inhibitor use has consequences for chemical stability and the cloudiness of the water, which we describe in a moment.

The second issue is to keep the pool clean and to keep the water clear, which in the past was dealt with by draining and refilling the fountain. To address cleaning and water clarity, we have improved the filters that we use for the pool to trap more dirt, debris, algae and particles that make the water appear cloudy. In addition to the filtration, we must also add chemicals to the water as is done for swimming pools. And finally, if we have some algae, then we use algaecide.

The water currently in the fountain was added in April 2015 after the repair work. With the above steps being taken to preserve the water quality, we intend to use the existing water for a very long time.

A priceless treasure, but:

The fountain, a gift to the City of Berkeley from the Friends of the Fountain and Walk, was valued at the time of the dedication at $175,000, including donated professional services, materials and labor.

CloseUpOfGrizzlyBearCubsA second life:

The original 1911 fountain was hit by a runaway truck and destroyed in 1958. The new fountain was completed in 1996, using original specifications by architect John Galen Howard and vintage photos. The grizzly bear cub sculptures created in 1911 by famed artist Arthur Putnam were re-created by sculptor Sarita Waite.

A weighty matter:

The bottom pool of the fountain is poured concrete, with 40 pre-cast concrete pieces making up the sides, each weighing 440 pounds. It took a crane one day to lift all the pieces into place.

MarinCircleFountainAtNightLight show:

Four underwater lights are installed in niches cast into the bottom pool and each of the other two tiers of the fountain also have four lights each, which illuminate the fountain from dusk to dawn daily.

Safety first:

Thirty-three break away concrete bollards, with a total weight of two tons, separate the fountain from the motoring public.



There are two separate pump systems:

  1. Main pump system that runs the water flowing through the middle and top bowls and through the crown jet fountainhead on top
  2. Filter system to keep the pool clean


There are two lighting systems:

  1. It has an 110V system in the main pool, which has 4 lights directed at the bottom of the middle bowl.
  2. It has a 12V system in the middle bowl, which has 4 lights illuminating the bears.


There are irrigation systems for The Circle and the perimeter sections:

  1. The Circle irrigation system has a timer in the vault and three circuits.
  2. The perimeter sections from Del Norte clockwise to Marin Ave. (downhill direction) have 2 valves, and the perimeter section between the uphill portion of Marin Ave. and Los Angeles Ave. are hooked up to a timer on the corner of Del Norte.
  3. The perimeter sections from the downhill portion of Marin Ave., clockwise to The Arlington, each have their own manual turn on valve. These valves are connected to a main valve located in the median between the one-way Los Angeles Ave. and the one-way Mendocino Ave.

The schematic drawing of the vault, pool and fountain was made in 2003 and revised in 2015 with the repairs.