| Architecture | Water
TANKS FOR THE
An Illustrated Water Tank Glossary
A Salute to
Standpipes, "Tin Men", Waterspheres, Torosphericals, Spheroids
by Edward Aquifer
Clyde Burns - Consultant
to water towers.
Photo by John
Cowboy sign salutes a new water tower north of Cuero,
Vintage photo courtesy Navidad Valley Historical Museum, Schulenburg
Reservoirs and Standpipes
Ground level storage
tanks, sometimes simply called reservoirs, are basically water towers
without legs They have a height equal to or less than their diameter
and are usually placed on elevated positions where available. Standpipes
have heights greater than their diameter, but still no supporting
superstructure. While water tower companies still offer ornamental
architectural elements that can turn utilitarian tanks into works
of art - most communities consider this a frivolous expenditure and
leave standpipe decoration to the next graduating high school class.
and "Tin Men" -
In the world of
water storage, the icon is the riveted tank. Once the pride of the
community, these towers were proof that towns had outgrown their village
or hamlet status. Whenever the subject of water towers comes up, it's
the riveted tank that appears in the mind's eye. References to the
tin woodsman in the Wizard of Oz are frequent. State-of-the-art when
installed, these towers were built better than they had to be and
are still holding their water in tens of thousands of towns. Ironically,
these towers which had once been the symbol of modernity, are now
being dismantled, in many cases, simply because they "look old."
The Quintessential Water Tower
Photo by John Troesser, May 2005
is the familiar "golfball-on-a-tee" design. These tanks can contain
anywhere from 25,000 gallons to 150,000 gallons. Despite what would
appear to be the obvious, the support column does not contain water
but merely encloses access ladders and the pipes that connect to the
tank. When examined up close - the bell-bottom base has a door allowing
access to pumps and controls.
AKA Waterspheres, AKA Single Pedestal Tanks
Prairie View water tower
Photo by John Troesser, May 2005
tank (background) with a riveted tank in foreground in Rockdale, Texas
Photo by John Troesser
water tank is most economical design and according to company propaganda,
it's also the most efficient. Most of these have access ladders on
the tower and a catwalk and handrail around the tank. These are usually
the towers a community installs after they have outgrown their riveted
tank. These were postwar favorites with subdivisions and suburbs all
across the country.
I-10 Torospherical Tank constructed by Clyde Burns
Photo courtesy Clyde Burns
Tanks & Water Spheroids
AKA "Big Mamas and Motherships"
We haven't come across any literature using the term "mothership"
but we have heard variations of Big Mama used by staff members. Clyde
Burns of Huntsville, Texas, a man who has erected, dismantled and
reassembled tanks for forty years, informs us that larger water spheres
are more correctly called water spheroids. These usually hold 200,000
gallons and up. Within this group are the Torospherical Tanks - like
the one shown here in Texarkana.
As the demand for water increases, newer designs requiring less maintenance
are needed. The new tank on the block is the Hydra-pillar. Hydra-pillars
have a large diameter (concrete or corrugated steel) shaft - which
eliminates the costly and time-consuming painting of framework and
scaffolding. These are gaining in popularity in cities like Plano
and McKinney (shown here).
Photo by Janet K. Gregg, June 2005