Last fall, the Associated Press reported that the cost of maintaining the huge fountains at the National September 11 Memorial in New York could be as much as $5 million per year. That got me thinking: It’s hard to find information on the cost of maintaining large custom-designed fountains.
I contacted the parks department in Portland, Oregon, to find out how much it costs to maintain Lawrence Halprin and Associates’ iconic Ira Keller Fountain—you know, the one the late Ada Louise Huxtable said “may be one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.” The cubist fountain was completed in 1970. Its main waterfalls cross most of a 200-foot-long city block and are around 18 feet high.
A representative from the parks department says the Portland Water Bureau spent approximately $73,600 to maintain the fountain in 2010 and $73,500 in 2011. The largest part of those bills (about $34,000 each year) was for electricity. A little over $26,000 went toward labor, and the rest paid for such things as maintenance vehicles and parts. It is worth noting that the Ira Keller Fountain operates about half of the year, so it does not require a heating system. The fountain is run by the water bureau, and their estimate seems not to factor in the cost of the water itself. You can see a slightly more detailed breakdown of the costs here and here.