The great Fontaine of Nemausa and Nemausus prompted the Romans to establish a settlement here, which became the home of a colony of veterans from the conquest of Egypt by the Emperor Augustus. Hence the crocodile coat of arms and the nickname of the local football team, Les Crocos.
They built the perfectly formed Maison Carrée and the best preserved amphitheatre of the Roman world and, as the city grew, supplemented their water supply by linking the crystal clear Fontaine d’Eure - just a kilometre away from where I write in St Quentin – to the city via a 48 kilometre long aqueduct.
It goes through tunnels, across the Gardon over the famous Pont du Gard, and through the garrigues. And it is precisely engineered to fall exactly 0.7 centimetres for every metre of its course.
That’s how seriously the Romans took water. That is why the Nîmois have built one of the most beautiful public parks in the world, Le Jardin de la Fontaine, and why, each year, they celebrate their waters with La Féerie des Eaux.
The number of spectators was being limited and although we were at least three quarters of an hour early for the scheduled start, pole positions were all taken. But we managed to squeeze ourselves into a reasonable place in the centre but well back.
It was a terrific performance, music from every genre pounding from speakers in the trees, weird and wonderful imagery projected on the ancient stonework, and the waters erupting in plumes of multi-coloured spray and fire.
The French do this kind of thing so well. According to Midi Libre, 1500 metres of electric cabling linked 200 water pumps, 30 flame throwers, 150 projectors and 5 video projectors to create this spectacle which enchanted us as much as the hundreds of young children present. And as we left, we walked through thousands of people queuing for the late night show and it occurred to us that this would be the ideal venue for a collection on behalf of WaterAid.
What did the Romans do for us? They taught us the importance of water and showed us that safe supplies more than justified the most ambitious and expensive engineering project.
It’s a lesson which, celebrations like this apart, we have not yet taken on board.
You can find out more and donate at http://www.wateraid.org/uk/what-we-do/the-crisis.
Today from the everysmith vaults: listening to a Concert Vault playlist of Dylan covers by the Dead, Hendrix, Patti Smith, the Byrds and a dozen others. It's not all good by any means, but most of it is, and much is new to me. As it may be to you. Worth an hour of your time.