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This article considers the cultural and social dynamics surrounding the water supply in Istanbul. It focuses on the period from the last two decades of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, roughly the period between the introduction of the central waterworks and the closure of the Ottoman mains and public fountains. This article considers the interaction of these two systems and indicates that the supply of water by centralized waterworks and via fountains existed side-by-side for more than six decades, making this dual system a characteristic feature of Istanbul’s water supply for many years. The conflict between various technological solutions was especially pronounced, and during the period under consideration the story of water supply is to a large extent one of competition between fountains and taps. Within this framework, this article examines how previously free water became a priced commodity, and how the centralized supply reinforced structures of social inequality.