Building a personal water tower

So, we’re in the boonies mostly, the sticks, rural route address and all, and being so, we’re on a well. As anybody who knows us or reads my blog even only occasionally knows. So I was thinking, is there a better way to provide household water pressure,  ensure adequate supply during peak load periods and somehow use the energy of the earth to assist in all of this, reducing our consumption of electricity?

Well… the answer is an age old invention. The water tower. They come in all shapes and sizes, tall, fat, bulbous, house shaped etc. They all work the same however.  Water is pumped either continuously or during specific periods, like at night to replenish what is used. The water in the tank is higher then all the surrounding taps (usually) so the weight of the water (gravity) helps provide the tap pressure. Believe its something like 2.3 feet for every pound per square inch of pressure (PSI). In this way you get nice even pressure for household use, steady 40 – 60 PSI, and  you will never out run the supply during peak periods – in theory – because the amount of stored water is enough to sustain the high usage for a period of time.  During periods of low usage, water is replenished from wells which may not produce water as fast as if they were going straight from the well to the households.

So how is this any different from a pump and pressure tank system? Having a pressure tank system means that the pressure can increase and decrease during usage like during a shower. When it gets to its minimum pressure, the pump will come on the add more water to the system and therefore increase the pressure again. So its up and down all the time, and the pump is having to turn on and off to keep the water within the acceptable range.

The nice thing about the water tower is that the pump just acts like a bit toilet tank, when the water is low, it opens the valve to fill up the tank. Households using the water in the tank really don’t care or notice when or even if the pump is coming on as there is no pressure change.

So a water tower smooths out the experience from pumping out of the well to the delivery to the taps.  It also potentially saves electricity and wear and tear. Why you say? Doesn’t it still need to pump the same amount of water? Well yes, but if a pump starts and stops all the time, that also means it has a start up load every time, which is often much higher then its average load. Also, turning on and off increases parts wear and tear. Ideally, pumps come on and pump for up to 2 minutes straight and then shut off for a while. With a water tower, it can be set to run steady for a good while to replenish the tank which minimizes starts and therefore starting loads and this saves money!

I’ve been thinking about the idea of having a water tower, building one that is . To make a long story short, the only drawback is in Canada, the requirement to heat the tank through cold winters. Otherwise having a water tower is almost a no brainer for domestic water demand and simplicity of a water system.

Building it, plumbing it and maintaining it aren’t a big deal, ensuring it and the pipes from the tank don’t freeze is another story. The pipe to the tank shouldn’t be a problem as the well water will be relatively warmer then any outside low temperature, believe it hovers around 15 degrees.. I should good that, its cold but much warmer than freezing anyways.

If I come up with a way or an idea, i’ll be sure to let you know 🙂

For 40 PSI of pressure, I would need a tank 92 feet in the air :/  Ok, I’ll have to rethink this because probably 30 or 40 would be a max height for anything I would make…  Stay tuned for more thoughts…

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15 thoughts on “Building a personal water tower

  1. Hi Micah,

    Here in Ireland most houses have an open cistern in the attic – say 3m above the upstairs taps. It’s adequate for the sink/toilet, but makes for pretty miserable showers without some sort of pump assist. That’s why I stumbled across your post. Why do you want 40psi? 3m gives about 4.5psi. 6m (9psi) would be enough for a shower. 35″ gives 15psi!!! I am curious, why do you need that much pressure? Are you just over-engineering (understandable – more is better) or do Canadian water systems have some feature that requires it?

    Nice article,


  2. The reason for the pressure is just that that’s what we’re used to. Our well system keeps the pressure between 30 and 50 psi. For a nice strong shower, that’s the pressure were used to. Flow makes up for pressure though, if you have a lot more volume then pressure isn’t as big a deal.

  3. Good idea Randy. I guess the original idea is to let nature / gravity do most the every day work for you, pressurizing it makes one more point of failure and at that point, why not just use a well pump and pressure tank 🙂

    I’ve not really come across a super easy way to do this, haven’t really had the need to be honest. I’m not off the grid fully or anything so not much need for it. thanks for the comment though.

  4. Use a 4or 6inch pipe coming out of your tank to the ground then branch off with 1/2 inch. As far as northern Canada weather. If you insulate the tank and the outside of the tower with the pipes running inside it. On bitter nites you could use a wood stove inside the base.banked for the night it should keep from freezing tank and pipes. And on cold days could be built to pre warm water for gen. Use instead of propane water heater. Just come off 4or6inch line high with copper line coil above stove

  5. thanks for the comment and great ideas! I’ve not actually been able to get to building one but i would be interested to do it one day!

  6. I can’t find the plans for a three story tower that was used all over Calfornia and later converted into minihouses.

    Dose anyone still make these anymore?
    I keep searching and just come up empty.
    We have a good well for about 4 months that is 20 feet higher than the house. Just not enough pressure to use a tankless water heater and would like to also use it for a look out tower as we have an amazing view. The landscape is covered with tall trees needing to be cleared that could be used for solid thick beams with a Granite base to secure posts.
    Where do I find plans or a complan that still makes these?
    Old idea with great usefull and green way to live without hooking up to the tainted water that runs through our property though we are denied access.

  7. If you tower is going to have 40psi coming out of the tower, conversely it would need at least 40psi to fill it at 92 feat in the air and remember your pump only cycles on at 30 psi. A 20 ft tower is more practical, and you can add the height of the tank to your psi calculations. If you tank is 10 feat you then get a total of 30 feat.

  8. As a fellow Canadian in a rural setting with a dug well for household water supply, I have wondered about a seasonal water tower to gather rainwater from my roof (eavesteough) and enjoy the gravity feature to run a garden hose to water the gardens. This would allow me to grow vegetables and flowers without using precious well-water that can be limited on dry seasons. Rainbarrels are useful, but the process of filling watering cans and carrying them around the yard is tedious and time-consuming. I would hope for sufficient water pressure from the elevated tank of a water tower to spread a hose across the yard and spray my gardens. No concerns about pipes freezing, because I would empty ithe tower before winter. Have wondered about hooking it up to my sump pump also to collect and retain the water that normally is discharged from my basement crawlspace during rainy periods like springtime conditions. Anyone had success with non-potable rainwater collection in a water tower?

  9. thanks for the comment. a water tower unfortunately is an expensive setup and you need it fairly high for household water pressure. for gardening or watering etc however, you can get away with a barrel with host attached at bottom and its enough pressure to water plants.

  10. Another amazing use of the past The Water Towers of CA
    was that the remaining were turned into fantastic living spaces.
    A friend rented one in Fremont CA and many could be seen from the hwy up and down the coast or valley between hwy 5 and 880.
    They were so stable that a spiral staircase was built into the internal sides of the structure with storage underneath, small kitchens and bath on the ground floor and a studio sized bedroom on the top. Anybody ever seen one of these?

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