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Its predecessor dated from 1886, when the new hydraulic turbines on the Rhône built up excessive water pressure after the city’s craftsmen had closed the valves in their workshops and gone home. An engineer created a temporary outlet which spurted a 30m fountain to release the pressure while a reservoir system was developed, but by the time the fountain became unnecessary a few wily Genevois had caught on to its power as a tourist attraction. Then purely decorative, it was moved from the river to an exposed lakeside location, and furnished with more and more powerful pumps. Today, the height of the jet is an incredible 140m, with 500 litres of water forced out of the nozzle every second at about 200kph. Each drop takes sixteen seconds to complete the round-trip from nozzle to lake and, on windy days, the plume can rapidly drench the surroundings (they tend to turn it off if the wind picks up). It’s worth risking a dousing by walking out onto the jetty to appreciate the force and noise of the thing close up.
The Jet d’Eau operates in summer (May–mid-Sept daily 9.30am–11.15pm; late-March–April & mid-Sept–Oct Mon–Fri 10am–sunset, Sat & Sun 10am–10.30pm), and also during the Motor Show in early March. It’s illuminated after dark.
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