Sarajevo, located on a rocky hill between mountains, is known, among other things, for its numerous sources of fresh water. While wandering its charming streets and immersing yourself in its rich heritage, you cannot help but notice Sarajevo’s fountains. With their diverse designs, they not only add a touch of elegance and tranquility to the cityscape but also serve as significant symbols of Sarajevo’s past.

The tradition of building fountains dates back to the 15th century, during the Ottoman period. According to the records of Grabrijan and Neidhardt from the 17th century, Sarajevo had over 110 fountains throughout the city, along with 5 public baths and 670 private baths. Water was sourced from over 700 wells and 1060 springs.

Sarajevo’s public fountains were not just sources of clean water; they also served as gathering places where people socialized, shared news, and found respite from the bustling urban life, akin to monuments in the Western world. The Turkish poet Nerkesy even referred to Sarajevo as the “city of a thousand fountains.” However, the tradition of building fountains gradually waned over the years due to intensive urbanization and profit-driven construction. As a result, dozens of fountains were demolished, neglected, or left to decay, with little interest from local authorities in preserving these unique monuments and supporting this beautiful tradition that benefits us all.

As it often happens, the residents of Bosnia and Sarajevo continued to build public fountains (hair fountains) without systematic support or mapping. Therefore, today we do not have reliable data on the number or locations of all the fountains built as private or societal legacies.

The importance of clean and fresh spring water gained global attention as this resource suffered from unplanned exploitation, pollution from industries, and modern ways of life. This ultimately led to the United Nations General Assembly adopting a resolution in 2010 stating that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is “essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” The resolution emphasizes the crucial role of clean drinking water and sanitation in promoting human rights, highlighting that the lack of access to clean water can lead to various violations of human rights.

The Green Building Council recognized an opportunity to bring this resource back into focus and revive the traditional respect that the residents of Sarajevo have shown for centuries through the construction of public fountains. Therefore, in line with green policies, we have initiated a project supported by our long-term partners, the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Sarajevo, called “Sarajevo, the City of a Thousand Fountains – Reviving the Tradition of Fountain Use.”

With the aim of making this project a future initial capsule for the preservation of human fundamental rights, such as the right to clean water, the right to health, and the benefits for the environment, and ultimately reducing/eliminating the use of disposable plastic bottles, both for its residents and all its visitors, and by returning to the tradition of using our Sarajevo fountains.

The project started its implementation in 2022 but thanks to the support of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, it continues in 2023.

The main objectives of the project are:

  1. Promoting the tradition of using Sarajevo fountains as a source of drinking water in the city of Sarajevo, as an important part of Sarajevo’s heritage and tradition.
    Promoting the traditional and contemporary green significance of fountains in Sarajevo with the aim of encouraging local residents as well as visitors to use them.
  2. Improving the quality and availability of public fountains in the city.
    Mapping existing fountains and proposing plans that include the construction of new ones to provide a sustainable, territorially balanced supply of clean free water in Sarajevo.
  3. Reducing the use of bottled water and promoting sustainable practices among the public.
    This will be achieved by raising awareness about the importance of reusable bottles, encouraging a shift towards a greener future, and promoting the use of reusable bottles. Additionally, it highlights the tourism potential and sustainable services that cities should offer in line with decarbonization and the circular economy measures.
  4. Promoting the tourism potential and sustainable services that cities should offer in line with decarbonization and the circular economy measures.
    Our organization continues its long-standing efforts to promote green and circular economy, environmental protection, and the well-being of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  • Raising awareness about an innovative approach to tradition, local customs, and human rights for transitioning to the Green Deal.
  • Conducting information dissemination to the community to encourage and motivate people to use public fountains as sources of drinking water, by promoting the use of reusable water bottles and providing incentives in collaboration with local authorities for fountain usage.
  • Collaborating with public enterprises to emphasize the importance of regular cleaning and maintenance of public fountains to ensure they are in good working condition and safe for public use.
  • Identifying new public fountains and promoting them with a special focus on those with high demand and limited access to drinking water.