Drinking Water in Nice – Better Than Bottled Water!


People have been storing and distributing water for centuries. Before, when people lived as hunters/ collectors, river water was applied for drinking water purposes. When people permanently stayed in one place for a long period of time, this was usually near a river or lake. When there were no rivers or lakes in an area, people used groundwater for drinking water purposes. This was pumped up through wells.
When the human population started growing extensively, the water supply was no longer sufficient. Drinking water needed to be extracted from a different source.

The Romans were the greatest architects and constuctors of water distribution networks in history. They used river, spring or groundwater for provisioning. The Romans built dams in rivers, causing lakes to form. The lake water was aerated and than supplied. Mountain water was the most popular type of water, because of its quality.
For water transport the aquaducts where built. Through these aquaducts water was transported for tens of miles. Plumming in the city was made of concrete, rock, bronze, silver, wood or lead. Water winnings were protected from foreign pollutants.

After the fall of the Roman empire, the aquaducts were no longer used. From 500 to 1500 AD there was little development in the water treatment area. In the Middle Ages countless cities were manifested. In these cities wooden plumming was used. The water was extracted from rivers or wells, or from outside the city. Soon, circumstances became highly unhygenic, because waste and excrements were discharged into the water. People that drank this water fell ill and often died. To solve the problem people started drinking water from outside the city, where rivers where unpolluted. This water was carried to the city by so-called water-bearers.

Only convents continued the Roman tradition, undoubtedly due to the written documents they had.
The monasteries and other religious buildings, which took root wherever there was water, continued to develop local facilities (Chartreuse La Verne, Abbey Thoronet, etc.). 
On the rocky peaks, the inhabitants of the castles and villages collected rain water in huge reservoirs and in tanks and barrels.
These various stocks that were subject to the vagaries of rainfall were often quickly empty. Over time, there was an accumulation of toxic substances at the bottom of tanks and other containers. This water was essentially for cooking and household use. The spring water was reserved for drinking.
In researching other resources, the ingenuity of some went so far as to try to generate water from condensation on the stones.  


The river Var


In the Middle Ages the water was being channeled.
Small communities, castles, monasteries, farms and towns started to organize the flow of the water, depending on the proximity of the streams and rivers, sometimes several kilometers away. 

Later in the Middle Ages the growth of cities created new supply problems. The villages also attracted more and more families and the supply of water was deteriorating in several levels: the available quantity and quality. This had an impact on health matters and caused diseases like typhoid and cholera.
From the years 1700-1750 the cities tried to use existing sources to implement public fountains. 

Fountain in Les Castagnières


The first public fountains didn’t have any storage of water between the source and the fountain. The flow was produced by continuous gravity, and produced approximately 10-20 m3 per day, unless the source was exhausted. The water then passed from fountain to fountain. This is one of the reasons that the wealthiest people lived in the highest places: because of the gravity they were the first to receive drinking water. Once it had arrrived in the lowest (poorest) places, it was quite fouled. 
On the banks of the rivers and canals there were also growing craft activities (water-mills, saw mills, slaughterhouses, tanneries, dye houses, etc.) which used water as the driving force and cleaning medium. This was the start of water pollution.
Water mills with blades provided motive power for different uses, but mainly for grinding grains to prepare the meal. Bread was then the main food. 

Washing women in Rue Malonat, Vieux Nice. 1805 can’t be right, it’s probably 1905 or later.



Rue Mallonat, Vieux Nice, 2010


Washing women on the North bank of the Paillon river in Nice.


And here, on the South bank of the Paillon, also in Nice


The Paillon river in Nice in Spring, at the Palais des Expositions, where it continues its last miles to the Mediterranean underground.


Cascade de Gairaud in Nice, early 20th century


The system of the cascade


The Cascade de Gairaud in September 2010


The main function of the Cascade was oxygenating the water, but ever since it was built it has been a tourist attraction.


The Cascade de Gainaud is part of a system called Canal de Vésubie.


The Vésubie is a left tributary of the Var River. The source is in the Mercantour National park near the border with Italy. The river flows through the town of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and flows into the river Var near Levens.


Canal du Vésubie. In 1892 the canal was extended all the way to Menton.


Site of Super-Rimiez in Nice


Modern times

Situated on the Côte d’Azur, the Mediterranean coastline of Southern France, between Marseille and Genoa, the City of Nice has a Mediterranean climate with warm temperatures and only mild annual rainfall. Snow is a rarity and temperatures only drop below freezing point once or twice a year. Partly due to the fact that Nice faces South and being sheltered by the Pyrenees and Alps, it gets very hot in Summer although the sea breeze does alleviate the heat somewhat. This hot and sunny climate makes the City very popular as a tourist destination (second after Paris) to which the City plays host to over 10 million per year.

It is clear that people in the developing world need to have access to good quality water in sufficient quantity, water purification technology and availability and distribution systems for water.


Bank-side reservoir near St. Martin du Var


Where water is taken from a river of variable quality or quantity, bank-side reservoirs may be constructed to store the water pumped or siphoned from the river. Such reservoirs are usually built partly by excavation and partly by the construction of a complete encircling bund or embankment which may exceed 6 km in circumference. Both the floor of the reservoir and the bund must have an impermeable lining or core, often made of puddled clay. The water stored in such reservoirs may have a residence time of several months during which time normal biological processes are able to substantially reduce many contaminants and almost eliminate any turbidity. The use of bank-side reservoirs also allows a water abstraction to be closed down for extended period at times when the river is unacceptably polluted or when flow conditions are very low due to drought.


Reservoir in the northern Var area


A valley dammed reservoir is a dam constructed in a valley, which relies on the natural topography to provide most of the basin of the reservoir. Dams are typically located at a narrow part of a valley downstream of a natural basin. The valley sides act as natural walls with the dam located at the narrowest practical point to provide strength and the lowest practical cost of construction.


A reservoir generating hydroelectric includes turbines connected to the retained water body by large diameter pipes. These generating sets may be at the base of the dam or some distance away. Some reservoirs generating hydro-electricity use pumped re-charge in which a high level reservoir is filled with water using high performance electric pumps at times when electricity demand is low and then uses this stored water to generate electricity by releasing the stored water into a low level reservoir when electricity demand is high.


Nice 2010. The city is ready for a population of 650,000, preparing for a population of 800,000 in the near future.


I have been living in this city for many years, and compared to the drinking water of other major cities I visited, the water here is great!


On World Water Day, the Metropolitan Nice and Veolia have therefore decided to rediscover the virtues of Nice tap water. “Because it’s more environmentally friendly (exit plastic bottles, transport and therefore waste, pollution) and more economical,” said Paul Henry, vice president of the Urban Community and Nice Mayor Saint-Martin du Var. Bottled water is € 0.18 per 1 liter; tap water is € 3.10 per 1000 liters!

In a bid to convert bottled water consumers to the taste and advantages of drinking from the tap, Nice Côte d’Azur, along with Veolia Eau, launched the ‘Goût de l’Eau’ survey, which saw 100 trained volunteers tasting and rating the local water over the course of ten weeks. The tap water was savoured like a fine wine, by using the eyes, nose, taste buds and brain to appreciate the flavour.

At the Super-Rimiez water treatment plant, Hervé Paul, vice-president of Nice Côte d’Azur Water Resources Management, spoke in favour of a radical change in the consumption of water, arguing that both economic and ecological advantages would ensue.

According to Nice Côte d’Azur research, residents of Nice consume an average of 230 liters of water per day. A typical household will drink one to two liters of water per day. However, the majority favour bottled water. (How stupid!)

By shedding light on the costs and environmental impact incurred with every bottled water purchase, from distribution to recycling, local government expects many residents to reconsider their preferred source of drinking water. They are devoted to widening the appeal of tap water, emphasizing the use of environmentally sustainable methods of sourcing, treatment, and distribution.

A move in this direction has already been encouraged by the installation of new eco-friendly hydraulic turbines along the pipeline that runs from the Rimiez source to Nice. Officials hope experiments like the ‘Goût de l’Eau’ survey will help residents rediscover the taste of water from natural sources, and that their feedback will, in turn, help answer the demand for better quality tap water.

In the wake of environmental pressures, new markets are opening up for those industries seizing the opportunity for innovation and economic progress. With public opinion key, Nice Côte d’Azur and Veolia Eau wish to share their savoir-faire with volunteers and are keen to reassess the taste of drinking water, as well the way that it serves the needs of local people.


Within the more general scope of studies aiming at a better knowledge of the mechanisms responsible for biological biodegradation in water systems, it was interesting to learn the microbiological behaviour of a drinking water network supplied with water free of biodegradable organics. The case in point is the town of Nice which enjoys excellent quality water ressources, to the extent that the Compagnie Générale des Eaux, managers of the municipal water utility, were able to apply ozonation as a disinfectant when the technique first appeared at the beginning of the century, and supply chlorine free water.

The Municipal Services of the Town of Nice, the Nice Health Laboratory and the Compagnie Générale des Eaux therefore combined forces to carry out a study on the development of water quality in the supply network in such an animal environment. The objective was to make a complete diagnosis of the microbiological and hygienic quality of a chlorine-free network which would confirm the excellent quality of the distributed water and serve as a reference within the scope of general research on the removal of biodegradable organics for the supply of non chlorinated water.


The complete diagnosis of the mirobiological and health condition of the Nice water system has brought confirmation of the good quality of the water supplied throughout its transit in the water mains. The lack of chlorination dues not cause a deterioration of the bacteriological quality of the water.

The importance of these findings on such a distinctive network as that of the Nice utility will enable this study to be used as reference for future research on the means of maintaining the quality of water in supply networks without using chlorine.


Because, unless we’re used to it and never drink tap water elsewhere, tap water containg chlorine tastes AWFUL.


About Jack Vanderwyk

Hey! What am I like! :-)
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One Response to Drinking Water in Nice – Better Than Bottled Water!

  1. Pingback: Cascade de GairautBernard Perroud

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