The Peeing Boy sent as much as 2,500 liters of fresh drinking water directly down the drain each day.
Mannaken Pis is a little boy who, it’s believed, is a stand-in for the spirited city of Brussels with his insouciant stance. Better known as the Peeing Boy, the small bronze statue has been in place since the early 17th century.
The statue of the cherubic boy answering the call of nature stands near the Grand Place in the medieval heart of the Belgian capital and is a famed tourist sight with people from around the world flocking to pose for pictures with it.
Recently it transpired, though, that the statue was quite a wastrel. The Peeing Boy sent as much as 2,500 liters of fresh drinking water directly down the drain each day via the fountain in front of it. This means that over the past four centuries the statue may have wasted more than 250 million liters of water.
Cue jokes about incontinence.
A local technician realized the extent of freshwater waste by the statue after he installed a meter on the bronze boy to measure its daily output. “We thought it was a closed circuit and that he wasn’t consuming anything,” noted Régis Callens, a local energy technician who discovered the issue. “Since the counter for Manneken Pis is just one out of 350 or 400, nobody paid much attention.”
A solution presented itself and it was inaugurated during Water Market Europe, held in Brussels on March 21-22. The Peeing Boy was taken off the city’s freshwater system and linked up to a closed-circuit one so that the water is now recirculated in a loop without any waste. The water the boy pees is channeled back from the fountain to the statue. City officials are planning to fine-tune the system in coming weeks.
“[W]e can be proud to say that, for the first time in 400 years, Manneken Pis is not peeing out fresh drinking water,” observed city councilor Benoît Hellings.