This Land Is Your Land by Ivan Navarro
New York City’s water towers are iconic, and a hundred of them are covered in artwork created by Jeff Koons, Maya Lin, and other artists. They are meant to raise awareness of global water problems and encourage New Yorkers to drink their tap water.
What are those wooden water tanks?
When I first started visiting the city I noticed that the City’s skyline is dotted with wooden water towers. My first thought was to mistake them for vanishing relics of a bygone era. Maybe like seltzer bottles and street gas lamps.
But what I didn’t realize is the towers are hardly antiques — in fact, most drink and bathe from the water stored in them every day. We think they are old because they look as though they are. While many are more than 30 years old, even new ones look old because they are made of wood that isn’t painted or chemically treated (so as not to taint drinking water).
Though the technology has become more efficient, the concept of gravity delivering water from a wood tank hasn’t changed in decades. The average wood tank holds 10,000 gallons of water and costs around $30,000.
Only three companies build the ones you see on the NYC rooftops, and to get an idea of how much in use they are, Rosenwach Tank Company (which has been in business for over 100 years) builds approximately 300 new tanks a year.
This system may be “old” but it sure is reliable. About 15,000 buildings still use this system today.
How it works:
– A water tower is a simple device that uses gravity to provide water pressure.
– They provide water for domestic uses and fire supply.
– Most structures taller than six stories need some sort of water tower and pump system of their own.
– Water is fed to buildings through pipes in the basement.
– Electric pumps push the water from the basement to roof.
– From the roof, gravity sends water to pipes throughout the building.
– As tenants use the water, the level in the tank goes down and, just like in a toilet, a ballcock lets more in.