The Fountain Show Must Go On …. Even in Frigid Temperatures

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Winter storms have much of the United States shoveling snow and defrosting frozen hoses and koi ponds. But for the animated show fountains that entertain thousands of guests throughout the holiday season, it’s business as usual. And that is by design.

“People may assume the sheer volume and velocity of water flowing in a 60,000-gallon fountain keep the water from freezing, but when temperatures hit single digits, even playful waters can freeze, seemingly in mid-air,” says Hugh F. Hughes, president of Outside the Lines, one of the country’s leading design-build contractors for large commercial show fountains. “That’s why most large show fountains are designed with special weatherization requirements. The water can never drop below 41 degrees.”

So when the weather turns from chilly to downright freezing, a mechanized action plan goes into motion.

According to Hughes, OTL show fountains designed for cold regions include boilers and multiple heat exchangers. When turned on, the system channels calculated amounts of water through the boilers, heats it, and then recirculates the water throughout the fountain.

“We make the process a simple on/off switch for the owner, but the engineering behind the system is quite complex,” says Hughes.

Designers must evaluate multiple criteria including regional wind conditions, the fountain’s number and type of nozzles, the length of time water is suspended in the air, ambient temperatures, surface area of the water feature and the frequency of shows throughout the day. In addition, the design of the weatherization system must integrate perfectly with the intricate mechanics driving the fountain show itself.

“Assessing all this data and its ramifications on cold-weather show fountain performance takes skill and experience,” warns Hughes. “The temperature this morning was 20 degrees in Meridian, Idaho, home to our newest show fountain, but the fountain water temperature was a cozy 44 degrees. We are smiling,” Hughes quips.

Hughes says expert fountain design doesn’t guarantee fountain shows will never be interrupted by cold weather since venue operators consider many factors such as wind-chill health advisories and consumer demand. But he does say as long as crowds are willing to bundle together and brave the elements, the fountains won’t disappoint.

“Show fountains are all about entertainment and we abide by the entertainers’ creed of ‘the show must go on,” Hughes says, “even if the stage is covered in snow.”

For more information, contact Hugh Hughes at 714.637.4747 or visit

About OTL
OTL ( is a worldwide industry leader that creates one-of-a-kind water features, rockwork and themed environments, with services ranging from design and preconstruction to construction and post construction. Markets include golf courses, casinos, resorts, theme parks, retail entertainment, zoos, aquariums, private estates, museums and public parks. OTL’s notable projects include dynamic fountains and organic water features at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain at Grand Park in Los Angeles, Station Park in Farmington, Utah and multiple fountains at Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square in Santa Monica, California. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.