In every small town and village, and larger cities and communities, it is common to find one (or more) water towers. Often they are festooned with the name of the city, and perhaps even a motto.
This makes sense, for in many cities the water tower is a major expense and an important signal of the town’s self-sufficiency. It is a sign that the town is independent and providing basic services that people in the community need to live.
Specifically, the raised water tower provides two important features that more than justify the expense of setting aside land for a tower, and building and maintaining it.
Justification for painting it … well, most people like the things they own to be pretty.
Water pressure for water customers
The first, most obvious reason to have an elevated water tank is to create water pressure for the citizens. An elevated water tank creates internal water pressure, which is what makes the water come out of your faucet faster, spray further out of your hose, and fill your toilet reservoir more quickly.
Water pressure occurs naturally because of the weight of water above it. This is what causes your ears to hurt as you dive to the bottom of a ten or twelve foot deep swimming pool. The pressure from all of the water above you is exerted against you, and against everything else in the water below.
This is why submarines are round and made of the sturdiest metals known to man – they must withstand thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch.
This is because water exerts pressure at around .43 PSI per foot of elevation. Or, put another way, if you want one pound of pressure, you must elevate the water 2.31 feet.
When you are at the bottom of a pool, you might experience several pounds of pressure on your eardrums. This feels quite different from the equilibrium you have with the air above the pool, where you feel perfectly normal. This several pounds of pressure is enough to make most people uncomfortable.
At the bottom of the ocean – or at least at the depths to which we can travel – the pressure would kill most living creatures.
Water pressure for fire fighters
The other important reason water is elevated into towers is for fire suppression.
Towns and cities pool their resources together to build tall water towers in order to create water pressure that they deliver through an underground system of pipes for hydrants. They do this throughout the city limits. This sends a signal to residents and businesses that they can be assured of assistance in case there is a fire.
The water pressure delivered to these hydrants can be used to deliver a large amount of water very quickly, so even the biggest fire, such as at a factory or barn, can be tamed as quickly as possible.