A fountain (from the Latin "fons" or "fontis", a source or spring) is a piece of architecture which pours water into a basin or jets it into the air either to supply drinking water or for decorative or dramatic effect.
Fountains were originally purely functional, connected to springs or aqueducts and used to provide drinking water and water for bathing, but in ancient Rome they began to be used as decorative elements in gardens and courtyards. The art of fountains reached its peak in the fountains of the palaces of Moorish Spain in the 14th century; in the Italian Renaissance garden in the 15th and 16th century; in the fountains of the Gardens of Versailles in the seventeenth century; and the decorative fountains of Rome in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
CITED FROM wikipedia :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain
This had made me question the need for water fountains anymore. It has become solely aesthetically pleasing; which counteracts the issues we are seeing in deprived areas of the world. If these water fountains were introduced in countries where access to clean water is non- existent the appreciation of the water features will be far greater than how we, that live in the developed world, appreciate them. Personally I see them as a symbol of decadence and opulence. We have so much but we don't use things productively.
As a designer I strongly feel our need to be more socially responsible for what we produce and how we produce it and who it effects.