The 12 coolest water storage tanks in New England

Water storage tanks are an integral part of public water systems, providing storage of potable water as well as emergency sources for fire protection. Set high enough above the ground to sufficiently pressurize a water supply system for emergency distribution, these highly visible structures are often cylindrical and painted in neutral or pastel colors. Water storage tanks are readily seen while driving along highways, and often don’t make much of an impression. However, there are some water storage tanks around the world that are quite eye-catching, many of which have been written about. And while these tanks are certainly fascinating, we thought it would be fun to take a look a little closer to home.

The 12 coolest water storage tanks in New England

l. early 1900’s image of Tower Hill Water Tower in Lawrence, MA; r. the tower as it stands today

1. Tower Hill Water Tower, Lawrence, MA

The High Service Water Tower, also called Tower Hill Water Tower, was built in 1896 as a high pressure standpipe. The tower, constructed of red brick with granite trim around a steel standpipe, stands 157 feet and was designed by George G. Adams, a noted local architect. The octagonal, Romanesque structure includes a balcony capped by a chateauesque roof, round-arch windows, and a round staircase along one side. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and named a Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) in 1979.

Cathance Water Tower in Topsham, ME pre- and post-renovation

2. Cathance Water Tower, Topsham, ME

The Cathance Water Tower located in Topsham, Maine was built in 1906 to serve the Rogers’ family household and farm. The Tower is 29-feet tall with a 12-foot 4-inch square base and originally held over 5,000 gallons of water. In January 2001, the Cathance Tower was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a locally significant and rare surviving domestic water supply structure.  Also in 2001, the Town of Topsham received grant money to restore the Tower, and the restoration was completed in 2005. The stylized structure is essentially unaltered from its original state and is now owned by the Town.

The large flying witch painted on the water tank in Salem, MA lends levity to Salem’s dark history

3. Salem, MA

The water storage tank in Salem, MA is rather ordinary save for one very important detail: there is a silhouette of a witch riding on a broomstick painted onto the side of the tank. Salem is well known for its brutal Salem witch trials of 1692, during which 20 innocent people were executed, and to this day Salem gets much of its cultural identity from the trials. During Halloween, Salem attracts thousands of tourists dressed in witchy garb as well as people interested in the paranormal and witchcraft.

l. circa 1911 postcard depicts Earles Court Tower in Narragansett, RI during its glory; r. today, only the base remains

4. Earles Court Tower, Narragansett, RI

The Earles Court Tower was built between 1887-1888 in order to serve the summer community in the popular seaside resort town of Narragansett, Rhode Island. The original tower included a cylindrical stone base upon which was constructed a wooden superstructure that included a balcony and a giant, ornate griffin. In 1928, a strong storm decimated the wooden structure, but the stone base stands to this day. There is currently a grassroots committee of residents who are trying to raise funds to restore the tower to its former glory.

l. Circa 1909 postcard of Pepperell Park, Saco, ME clearly shows the water tower in the background r. The tower as it stands today
l. circa 1909 postcard of Pepperell Park, Saco, ME clearly shows the water tower in the background; r. the tower as it stands today

5. Pepperell Park, Saco, ME

The stone water tower in Pepperell Park, Saco, Maine was constructed in 1887 in order to irrigate Pepperell Park. Horace Wadlin, architect of six other buildings in the Biddeford and Saco area including the historic Dyer Library, designed the charming tower, which still exists today but is no longer functional.

l. circa 1910 postcard shows Fort Ethan Allen water tower in Essex, VT; r. the tower is largely preserved save for its weathervane that mysteriously vanished

6. Fort Ethan Allen, Essex, VT

The 80-foot tall water tower constructed in 1893 at Fort Ethan Allen was the first of 100 structures to be built at the fort. The tower boasts a 21-foot diameter base that tapers to a conical slate roof that used to be adorned with a weathervane, which has since vanished. The exterior of the tower has stood the test of time remarkably well, as has the intact 50,000-gallon steel tank inside the structure. Because the fort did not have electricity until 1905, water was originally pumped to the tower by steam engines. Unfortunately, the interior circular wooden stairway that winds its way to the observation deck was declared unsafe in 2008, so tours are no longer allowed. There is currently an effort underway to raise an estimated $250,000 to rehab the tower and reopen it to the public.

l. the Avon Old Farms School water tower just after its original construction; r. the tower was renovated in 2012 with attention to authenticity and detail

7. Avon Farms School, Avon, CT

The water tower and forge at the entrance to the all-boys Avon Old Farms School in Avon, CT were built in 1922. The English Cotswold and Tudor-styled water tower is cylindrical in shape and constructed of red sandstone and brick, and was operational until 1976 when cisterns were placed underground. It was fully restored in 2012 and now functions as an art gallery and reception venue.

December 30, 2009 ceremony where the water tower is presented to the town

8. Roger Williams University Gift, Bristol, RI

To onlookers, the Bristol, RI water storage tank doesn’t appear to be anything noteworthy. After all, it’s a fairly standard elevated steel tank painted basic white. But what makes this water tower special is how it came to be. During some onsite construction in 2008, Roger Williams University encountered a problem: low water pressure. But instead of bringing in pressure booster pumps to campus and leaving the town to fend for itself, the university decided to donate $1 million to the town for a new water tower. The water tower was constructed in 2009, and on December 30 of that year, it was formally presented to the town at a ceremony — complete with a giant red bow.

Fort and water tower at Fort Revere in Hull, MA

9. Telegraph Hill, Hull, MA

Telegraph Hill is part of Fort Revere Park, a 6-acre historic site located on a small peninsula in the town of Hull, Massachusetts. Telegraph Hill was originally used as a fort in 1776 to defend the port of Boston, and the first telegraph tower was built in 1827. In 1903, the United States Government hired the Hennebique Construction Company to build a 120-foot high, 25-foot diameter reinforced concrete tower housing a 118,000 gallon steel water storage tank to serve Fort Revere. The tower was the first reinforced concrete water tower in New England, and it also served as an observation tower for the Army. The tower was restored in 1975 and was designated an American Water Landmark in 2003. Telegraph Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

l. an old black and white photo of Fort Hill Water Tower in Roxbury, MA; r. the tower is remarkably well-preserved today

10. Cochituate Standpipe at Fort Hill, Roxbury, MA

Like Telegraph Hill, Fort Hill in Roxbury, Massachusetts was originally used as a fort to defend the area during the Revolutionary War because of its high location. In 1869, the Cochituate Water Company constructed a 130-foot tall brick tower on the site to house an 80-foot tall high pressure water tank and to provide visitors with a clear view of Boston and the surrounding area. The gothic tower, known as the Cochituate Standpipe, is architecturally stunning and in beautiful condition – even the original spiral staircase that wraps around the water tank still remains. The entire neighborhood of Fort Hill, which is sometimes referred to as Highland Park, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor, Maine has been in continual use since its construction in 1897

11. Thomas Hill Standpipe, Bangor, ME

The 50-foot tall, 75-foot diameter riveted steel tank, which holds 1.75 million gallons of water, was designed by A.B. Tower of Holyoke, Massachusetts and was constructed in 1897 by the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company atop Thomas Hill in Bangor, Maine. The tank is enclosed by a wooden jacket and has been continually used for its original purpose of regulating the town’s water pressure and providing an emergency source since its construction. Bangor Water District assumed ownership of the standpipe in 1957 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It is also designated an American Water Landmark by the AWWA. Fun fact: the Thomas Hill Standpipe is within walking distance of renowned author Stephen King’s home, and is commonly believed to be the inspiration for the haunted standpipe in his best-selling novel It.

l. illustration of the tower just after construction; r. the tower as it stands today

12. Lawson Tower, Scituate, MA

153-foot tall Lawson Tower was constructed in 1902 to hide a 276,000-gallon water tank from the view of Boston multi-millionaire Thomas W. Lawson’s “Dreamworld” estate across the street. Lawson himself paid for the structure, and he spared no expense. The tower was built in the style of a European castle turret with 123 steps to the ornate top, in which there are ten bells ranging in size from 300 to 3,000 pounds. The bells could be played from either the bell room or from a console in the clavier room. The tower is not only aesthetically pleasing but also provides sweeping views of the area, allowing visitors the ability to see all the way to Provincetown on a clear day. It was designated an American Water Landmark by the AWWA in 1974 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The Scituate Water Company stopped using the interior tank in 1988, and the tower is now a popular tourist attraction.

Effective Water and Wastewater Utility Management

A water main break is a common occurrence with our nation’s failing infrastructure

As water and wastewater utilities nationwide face an increasing number of challenges, including rising costs and population, aging infrastructure, drought, increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, and a rapidly changing workforce, creative and innovative methodologies for treatment and distribution along with efficient and effective utility management have become paramount. In order to ensure a strong and viable utility for future generations, utilities must find ways to improve their products and services while increasing community support. Effective water and wastewater utility management helps utilities improve performance in critical areas while responding to current and future challenges, all with limited infrastructure dollars.

In May of 2007, six major water and wastewater associations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed an historic agreement pledging to support effective utility management collectively and individually throughout the water sector and to develop a joint strategy to identify, encourage, and recognize excellence in water and wastewater utility management. Participating organizations included the following:

  • Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA)
  • American Public Works Association (APWA)
  • American Water Works Association (AWWA)
  • National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)
  • National Association of Water Companies (NAWC)
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Water Environment Federation (WEF)

The result of this powerhouse collaboration was the Effective Utility Management Primer, issued in June of 2008. The Primer, designed specifically to assist water and wastewater managers in identifying and addressing their most urgent needs through a customized, incremental approach, outlines ten attributes of effectively managed utilities along with five keys to management success:

Ten Attributes of Effectively Managed Water Sector Utilities

  1. Effective Utility Management: A Primer for Water and WastewaterProduct Quality produces potable water, treated effluent, and process residuals in full compliance with regulatory and reliability requirements and consistent with customer, public health, and ecological needs.
  2. Customer Satisfaction provides reliable, responsive, and affordable services in line with explicit, customer- accepted service levels. Receives timely customer feedback to maintain responsiveness to customer needs and emergencies.
  3. Employee and Leadership Development recruits and retains a workforce that is competent, motivated, adaptive, and safe-working. Establishes a participatory, collaborative organization dedicated to continual learning and improvement. Ensures employee institutional knowledge is retained and improved upon over time. Provides a focus on and emphasizes opportunities for professional and leadership development and strives to create an integrated and well-coordinated senior leadership team.
  4. Operational Optimization ensures ongoing, timely, cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable performance improvements in all facets of its operations. Minimizes resource use, loss, and impacts from day-to-day operations. Maintains awareness of information and operational technology developments to anticipate and support timely adoption of improvements.
  5. Financial Viability understands the full life-cycle cost of the utility and establishes and maintains an effective balance between long-term debt, asset values, operations and maintenance expenditures, and operating revenues. Establishes predictable rates—consistent with community expectations and acceptability—adequate to recover costs, provide for reserves, maintain support from bond rating agencies, and plan and invest for future needs.
  6. Infrastructure Stability understands the condition of and costs associated with critical infrastructure assets. Maintains and enhances the condition of all assets over the long-term at the lowest possible life-cycle cost and acceptable risk consistent with customer, community, and regulator-supported service levels, and consistent with anticipated growth and system reliability goals. Assures asset repair, rehabilitation, and replacement efforts are coordinated within the community to minimize disruptions and other negative consequences.
  7. Operational Resiliency ensures utility leadership and staff work together to anticipate and avoid problems. Proactively identifies, assesses, establishes tolerance levels for, and effectively manages a full range of business risks (including legal, regulatory, financial, environmental, safety, security, and natural disaster-related) in a proactive way consistent with industry trends and system reliability goals.
  8. Community Sustainability is explicitly cognizant of and attentive to the impacts its decisions have on current and long-term future community and watershed health and welfare. Manages operations, infrastructure, and investments to protect, restore, and enhance the natural environment; efficiently uses water and energy resources; promotes economic vitality; and engenders overall community improvement. Explicitly considers a variety of pollution prevention, watershed, and source water protection approaches as part of an overall strategy to maintain and enhance ecological and community sustainability.
  9. Water Resource Adequacy ensures water availability consistent with current and future customer needs through long-term resource supply and demand analysis, conservation, and public education. Explicitly considers its role in water availability and manages operations to provide for long-term aquifer and surface water sustainability and replenishment.
  10. Stakeholder Understanding and Support engenders understanding and support from oversight bodies, community and watershed interests, and regulatory bodies for service levels, rate structures, operating budgets, capital improvement programs, and risk management decisions. Actively involves stakeholders in the decisions that will affect them.

Five Keys to Management Success

  1. water_utility_leadershipLeadership
    Leadership is critical to effective utility management, particularly in the context of driving and inspiring change within an organization. Leadership refers both to individuals who can be effective champions for improvement, and to teams that provide resilient, day-to-day management continuity and direction. Effective leadership ensures that the utility’s direction is understood, embraced, and followed on an ongoing basis throughout the management cycle.
  2. Strategic Business Planning
    Strategic business planning is an important tool for achieving balance and cohesion across the Attributes. A strategic plan provides a framework for decision making by assessing current conditions, strengths and weaknesses; assessing underlying causes and effects; and establishing vision, objectives, and strategies. It establishes specific implementation steps that will move a utility from its current level of performance to achieving its vision.
  3. Organizational Approaches
    There are a variety of organizational approaches that contribute to overall effective utility management and that are critical to the success of management improvement efforts, including actively engaging employees in improvement efforts; deploying an explicit change management process that anticipates and plans for change and encourages staff at all levels to embrace change; and utilizing implementation strategies that seek, identify, and celebrate victories.
  4. Measurement
    Measurement is critical to management improvement efforts and is the backbone of successful continual improvement management and strategic business planning. A measurement system serves many vital purposes, including focusing attention on key issues, clarifying expectations, facilitating decision making, and, most importantly, learning and improving.
  5. Continual Improvement Management Framework
    A continual improvement management framework can help utilities understand improvement opportunities and establish explicit service levels, guide investment and operational decisions, form the basis for ongoing measurement, and provide the ability to communicate clearly with customers and key stakeholders. This framework plays a central role in effective utility management and is critical to making progress.

OK – Now What?

business_overwhelmedSo how does a utility assess, address, and implement these changes? The primer further recommended an assessment tool with five steps, for which the instructions comprise the latter 35 pages of the Effective Utility Management Primer. Admittedly, the entire process requires dedicated time and personnel commitment from the utility. While some utility managers have had success in applying the assessment to their utility, many have found the process to require resources simply unavailable to them. Tata & Howard has developed two proprietary innovations that assist water and wastewater utilities in the identification of their most urgent needs as well as effective and efficient utility management.

Business Practice Evaluations

Business Practice Evaluations (BPEs) assess the health of a utility’s work practices by implementing a framework for a structured approach to managing, operating, and maintaining in a more business-like manner. This assessment provides the information and planning required by the Primer, specifically in the Five Keys to Management Success. A BPE’s primary focus is on effective management.

The overall goal of the assessment process is more efficient and effective work practices, and the assessment process and tools developed enable utility managers to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the utility in comparison to generally accepted industry standards. The assessment includes documentation of current business practices, identification of opportunities for improvement, conducting interviews including a diagonal slice of the organization, and observation of work practices in the field. From this assessment we make recommendations to improve system performance, and the structured approach is fully customized and includes all functions of the utility — from administration and technical to operations and maintenance. The assessment process allows utility executives to proactively develop system specific plans, programs, and timelines to optimize the overall utility system programs.

Capital Efficiency Plans™

capitalWhere BPEs focus on management, Capital Efficiency Plans™ (CEPs) address the utility itself, combining the concepts of hydraulic modeling, system criticality, and asset management into a single comprehensive report. Each report is customized to the individual utility system and provides utilities with a database and Geographic Information System (GIS) representation for each pipe segment within their underground piping system. The CEP report also prioritizes system piping improvements and provides estimated costs for replacement and rehabilitation.

Each water and wastewater system has unique characteristics and challenges that are discussed at our CEP workshop held with knowledgeable field staff and managers for each project. The workshops provide significant value by filling in data gaps, correcting incorrect records, and identifying specific issues and critical components that are custom to the system. Our completed studies have been well received by many utilities who have found our methodology not only practical and understandable, but also defendable when justifying projects and procuring funding.

In Conclusion

Water and wastewater utilities today are finding themselves increasingly burdened with decreased revenue, excessive demand, and crumbling infrastrucure. Strict new regulations and a changing workforce have also added to the challenge, and it is imperative that water and wastewater utilities find ways to efficiently and effectively improve systems while implementing successful management strategies. Targeted assessments, strategic planning, and identification and implementation of best practices will be the foundation of all successful utilities in the future.

2014 Water Shortage Preparedness Report Now Available

California_Drought_Dry_Riverbed_2009AWWA has released a report on the results of its Water Shortage Preparedness Survey and it is now available for download. The final report reflects analysis of 485 water utility responses to questions about utility practices and policies for water shortage planning and implementation.

In AWWA’s 2014 State of the Water Industry report, drought/periodic water shortages were ranked as the eighth most important issue facing water professionals. In addition, future droughts and water shortages may be exacerbated by climate change, which can magnify the effects of water shortages especially following extreme sequential swings, e.g., water quality changes brought about by drought (where impacts can develop) followed by flooding (where those impacts are realized).

The survey results are intended to serve as a foundation for action and further discovery. Water professionals across North America continue to meet society’s expectations for safe and clean water by developing and implementing solutions to solve a never-ending stream of difficult issues, including water shortages. As we confront these challenges, AWWA will continue to serve as a bridge organization, uniting the worlds of science and research, policy, and practice to address these critical issues.

SOURCE: American Water Works Assocation

“Get to Know Your H2O!” During Drinking Water Week 2014: May 4-10


The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the water community officially kicked off Drinking Water Week 2014 across North America today by asking the question, “What do you know about H2O?”

waterglobeThroughout the week, the water community will celebrate the value of water by learning about the critical role it plays in our daily lives and in the quality of life we enjoy. Aligning with this year’s theme, special attention will be given to the ways in which all water consumers can get to know their H2O.

To commemorate the occasion, water utilities, environmental advocates, and others will celebrate drinking water through school events, public presentations, and community festivals. They will also provide their communities with vital information on how water consumers can get to know their H2O.

In addition, 2014 sees the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which works diligently to safeguard the quality of drinking water in the United States. The Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law that went into effect in 1974, and it works through effectively setting health-based standards and regulations and overseeing drinking water suppliers. Amendments to the Act in 1986 and 1996 increased the effectiveness and protection of drinking water and drinking water sources.

Currently in the U.S., community water systems are required to test their drinking water for contaminants and to report any violations that may have occurred. More information about the Safe Drinking Water Act is available on the U.S. EPA’s website.

Finally, Tata & Howard joins the American Water Works Association and all water professionals across North America in urging consumers to evaluate how they currently value, use, and access water, and how to protect it into the future.

North America’s water systems are critical to maintaining public health, economic vitality, fire protection, and quality of life. However, current trends in population, economic growth, energy, climate, and pollution affect water usage and the critical infrastructure the system needs to function properly.

As our systems’ aging pipes are repaired and replaced over the next 25 years, addressing this issue may be costly, but not insurmountable. Facing it head-on by proactively investing in our water systems now is a smart, safe, and common sense investment that will pay off for generations to come. More information about water infrastructure investment is available on the AWWA website.

So what do you know about H2O? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know! Everyone who likes our page and leaves us a comment will be entered to win a Home Depot gift card! It’s as easy as clicking here:

Happy Drinking Water Week!