Doyle helps put a fresh spring back in Spring Street

IT IS not a case of three coins in this fountain - you would need to drop in 300,000 $1 coins to restore the Coles Fountain in Spring Street to spurting like a car wash.

Resurrecting Melbourne's desiccated fountains has been a passion for lord mayor Robert Doyle, who will be spending $900,000 on the project this year. This will get six of the city's most prominent water features flowing.

Melbourne's fountains have either been turned off or have been working on low power for many of the dreary dry years.

The Coles Fountain, which was opened in 1981, was turned off in 2006 because of severe water restrictions.

All six fountains in the first year of Cr Doyle's resurrection campaign are designed to be largely drought-proof, drawing their water not from the city's mains, as they have in the past, but instead using sources such as rainwater tanks, stormwater or recycled water.

Cr Doyle says keeping the fountains spurting has an important psychological impact on a city in the driest continent.

He said that soon after he became lord mayor in 2008, he was walking up Collins Street when he noticed a small fountain turned off and neglected.

''It was known as the Georges Fountain, between where Georges Department Store used to be and Scots Church Hall,'' he said.

''It is a lovely fountain, and it was dry and filled with rubbish. I wanted to know why we couldn't do something about it, and I had the council restore it to working order.''

Cr Doyle said one of the next to be restored was the historic Hochgurtel Fountain, on the Victoria Street side of the Exhibition Building.

This 10-metre tall, highly decorated fountain in the Carlton Gardens was designed by German sculptor Josef Hochgurtel in the 1880s, when the Royal Exhibition Building was built.

Cr Doyle said that since it had been restored, it was supplied by tank water collected from the building's roof.

Other fountains being brought back to life include the Mockridge Fountain in the City Square (which includes a popular water wall), the 1930s Macpherson Robertson Fountain, near the Shrine of Remembrance, the Walker Fountain in Alexandra Gardens, donated by businessman Ron Walker after his term as lord mayor, and the 1871 Stanford Fountain in Gordon Reserve, on the corner of Spring and Macarthur streets.

The cost of restoring each fountain depends on the work done. All need new storage tanks, pumps and filters to ensure the reused water does not contain pathogens such as legionella bacteria.

The Coles Fountain, a gift from the Coles retailing family, is made of stainless steel on bluestone paving and sits in Parliament Gardens.

Its main attraction is that people can walk into its centre and be almost surrounded by water.

It is expected to be fully working in about a month.