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An ingenious hydraulic system to supply water to the Versailles Palace fountains
The Saclay plateau boasts a hydraulic system that is unique in the world and supplies the Versailles Palace fountains with water. Fearing a lack of water, Louis XIV appointed on 1st January 1664 Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Superintendent of the Royal Buildings, to find a solution. First, the engineer Thomas Gobert carried out a study of the Saclay plateau. Then, he proposed the creation of a network of hydraulic channels to collect water, ponds in which to store it, and aqueducts to carry it to Versailles. The system only went into operation in 1683.
The channels are manmade waterways. There are six of them on the plateau: Favreuse, Les Granges, Corbeville, Chateaufort, Saint-Aubin and Guyancourt. The channels stretch for a total distance exceeding 62 km.
Saclay’s Etang Neuf and Etang Vieux (New Pond and Old Pond) are components of this hydraulic system, along with 5 other ponds. Eventually, in 1950, the network, seen to be obsolete and an obstacle to the development of roads and buildings, fell into disuse.
Along the channels, markers engraved with a fleur de lis or crown remind us of their royal origins.
Nowadays, there are paths along the channels, much to the delight of walkers. The Etang Vieux pond, now a classified nature reserve, offers birdwatchers a chance to spot some rare species. Finally, a bird observatory is being built to offer the best possible conditions for wildlife observers.