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Water, water everywhere, for once

If water means life, Uptown is alive again.

The fountains are back on. Not all, but most. That geyser at Fourth Ward Park. The peaceful canal outside Charlotte Convention Center. The pond of pulsating sprays at Wachovia Center plaza.

They're all hissing and gurgling and roaring again, as if the drought never happened.

It isn't over, of course. Conditions remain extreme, and the city could still shut them all down.

Better enjoy the water while you can.

That's what Nicole Brooks was doing recently, sitting next to the fountain at The Green on South Tryon Street. In front of her, a handful of teens danced in the water, shamelessly clowning for photos beside a couple of concrete fish. She was jealous.

“All around us are cranes and construction and the constant buzz of corporate business, but this somehow drowns all that out,” said Brooks, a Wachovia employee. “You come here, see the kids playing, and you wish it was you out there in the water, being carefree, dancing with your shoes off. But we have our corporate lives to go back to.”

Why we seem drawn to the sights and sounds of water is one of life's little mysteries. Brooks guesses it's because water, like all forces of nature, is never completely under our control. It makes our day-to-day problems feel small by comparison, she says.

That alone is reason to explain why Uptown has 22 public fountains, from churning waterfalls to bubbling puddles. The best of the bunch is at Thomas Polk Park, corner of Trade and Tryon, where water rolls over a ledge and crashes about 10 feet into a pool. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a sculpture at the Hearst Building that resembles a seriously big iced latte, perspiring in the sun. Look too fast and you'll completely miss the water sliding down it.

How long they all stay running depends on rain totals in coming weeks. Last year, it was a bone-dry August that forced city officials to halt the use of water in fountains, which city officials say had never been done before.

The ban lasted six months and even now, restrictions forbid adding water to fountains Monday through Friday.

Should city officials turn off the faucets again, we'll be back to spending our lunch hour staring at dry concrete holes, and one seriously parched iced latte.

There's nothing we can do about it.

Nothing, except be shameless while the water flows, take our shoes off and live a little.

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