what, exactly, do water towers do?

I recently took a train trip across the nation, and it seemed like every small town has a water tower. No water tower is large enough to store enough water for even a small town; plus, with reservoirs and underground pipes, most towns can get what they need. You rarely see water towers in large cities. With these factors in mind, tt seems to me that while water towers once had a noble purpose, they are predominantly ornaments, identifying the name of the town and serving as an easel for the graffiti of local gangs and lovers. So, in the twenty-first century, what function do water towers perform?

Actually, large cities have hundreds of water towers; they’re all on the tops of buildings. Water towers work because the demand for water changes throughout the day. When people are asleep, there is little demand for water and the pressure in the system is high. The high pressure fills up the water tower with a surplus. In the morning, when people wake up and take their morning whiz, the pressure in the system decreases, causing the surplus water to come out of the tower.

For more information, see How Water Towers Work.

Water towers supply pressure, mainly. They are far from ornamental.

A pump would not be able to supply enough water at a significant constant pressure. The water pressure doesn’t change a lot during the day, because the level of the water in the tower doesn’t change that much relative to the height of the tower–unless the entire reservoir is depleted.

It’s all about the pressure.

Storage capacity is a great side effect but without towers/ tanks we would need monster pumps everywhere.

Water towers are hardly necessary. They are a cheap way of providing pressure, but there are other ways. I lived in a city that had no water tower, and which maintained water pressure adequately through simple use of pumping mechanisms.

Water towers in small towns are in fact a very important storage facility. While larger communities can afford reservoirs and expensive pumping facilities, small towns cannot. They must rely on small tanks and towers to get the job done. This is especially true on the High Plains where water is drawn from aquifers.

In smaller communities, usually there is one large large tower per two to three thousand people. In addition they will have three to five per that number at ground level in large tank-like containers.

Once again on the level land of the Plains, gravitational pumping from a tower can provide a consistent pressure to most homes in a community relatively easily and relatively inexpensively in that the pumps from the ground level tanks to the tower can be done once or twice or three times per day as needed and a steadily gravitational pressure can be kept up through out the day to houses and businesses from the tower. It saves the small town a great deal of money not having to have constant mechanical pressured pumping throughout the town all day.

Larger communities do not willingly share reservoir water, and assuming you could get it, they would have to be markedly higher in elevation to create the pressure you would need without a tower.


Which city was that?

There are tons of water towers over here. West Seattle, if you needed to know that…

In case you’re interested in why the water doesn’t freeze in water towers, we discussed it in this thread. There is also a link to some interesting looking water towers.

I don’t recall seeing water towers in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any. Water pressure can be supplied by having a resevoir at a higher altitude, essentially the same principal as a tower.

A post I know somethig about finally lures me out of lukerdom.

Simple answer, By pumping water into a tower and letting gravity distribute the water into the system the pumps at the wells don’t have to run all the time.

The water tower also provides a simple solution to the problem of controlling the pressure in a towns system of pipes. Since water is not compressible the pressure in a closed system will fluctuate wildly unless the rate of pumping from wells closely matches the
rate of water usage. With a water tower in place, any excess pumping acts to fill the tower while any deficit drains it, without huge changes in the systems pressure. This allows the use of cheaper, unregulated, pumps, and decreases the wear on the system.

Besides storing a bit of water, where else would you be able to declare that Billy Bob Loves Charlene?

Why, on the railroad bridge down on the Old Post Road. Duh. :wink:

Here in Sydney, we have several massive pipes which run from a huge dam in the mountains west of the city to a storage reservoir in the suburbs. Apparently, many, many years ago, the pipes weren’t there, and it was an open canal. People who lived along the canal said they could see the constant slow flow of the water as the city used it. But, they said it speeded up noticably towards the end of commercial breaks during high rating TV shows as a hundreds of thousands of toilets were simultaneously flushed. :eek:

"But, they said it speeded up noticably towards the end of commercial breaks during high rating TV shows as a hundreds of thousands of toilets were simultaneously flushed. "

Sheesh! You guys had 'Superbowls" down under, too???