If you live in a big city, you may see these dotting the rooftops of many buildings. If you live in a smaller town, you may see them towering over neighborhoods or along back roads in the countryside. What are we talking about? Water towers, of course!

Have you ever wondered why water towers exist? Are they really full of water? Why does anyone need a tower of water? Does it have a spigot so you can drink from it like a water fountain?

Water towers are indeed full of water. And, no, you can’t drink from them like a water fountain. Every water system needs water towers to provide water in the case of an emergency.

You’ve probably noticed that other utilities may go out from time to time. In a storm, you may lose electric power. Your television or telephone service might also experience interruptions occasionally. But what about your water?

Do you remember a time recently when you weren’t able to turn on the faucet to get water? If you can’t, that’s great. Most water systems are very reliable, and water towers play an important role in providing that reliability.

Water towers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. However, they all work the same way. Water towers are nothing more than simple elevated tanks of water.

In case of emergency, water systems need reserves of water, so that people can continue to have access to water while a problem with the water system if fixed. So why don’t water systems just build big ponds or use underground tanks? Water pressure, that’s why!

When you turn on your water faucet at home, the water comes out because the water is under pressure. Your local water system pushes the water to your home. A typical water system supplies water at a pressure of somewhere between 50 and 100 PSI (pounds per square inch).

Water towers are tall and are often placed on high ground, so that they can provide sufficient pressure to deliver water to homes in case of an emergency. Scientists estimate that each foot of a water tower’s height provides a little less than half a pound per square inch of pressure.

Experts can use mathematical formulas to determine how tall a water tower needs to be to provide the right amount of water pressure for all the homes and businesses in a particular area. In areas with lots of hills, water towers can be placed on higher ground, which means they don’t have to be as tall. In flat areas, taller water towers may be necessary.

So how much water can most water towers hold? A lot! An average backyard in-ground swimming pool will hold over 20,000 gallons of water. Most water towers can hold 50 times that amount.

The exact size of a water tower tank can vary greatly, but most are built to hold approximately one day’s water supply. The largest man-made water tower in the world is in McBee, South Carolina, and can hold 1.2 million gallons of water!

Water towers can be unique symbols of local pride. Sometimes they are painted with a town’s name or a local school’s logo. They can also take on interesting shapes, such as this giant peach in South Carolina.

As for the smaller water towers you see on the roofs of buildings in large cities, those are often required by local laws, so that buildings above a certain height will have their own sources of water in an emergency. If you ever visit New York City, you can see hundreds of buildings with their own water towers.

91 Join the Discussion

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    • We think that’s a GREAT guess about what tomorrow’s Wonder might be, Tessa! We hope you’re right…we would LOVE to learn more about llamas! :-)

  1. Hey I love this wonder of the day. In our town we have a couple water towers. I think they are pretty cool. Ours are just plain, though. They aren’t cool and decorative like some of the other ones. I think that it is cool that it is full of water. I bet a fish could live in there, but that would be nasty. I don’t think that I would like drinking water that a fish was living in. It might be cool, but it will also be really nasty. I love wonderopolis because it is so fun and so imaginative. I bet a lot of other people in the world like it, too. My class loves to get on here, too. We got on it yesterday and it was really cool. Thanks for responding.

    • We really enjoyed reading your comment today, Cassidy! Thanks for sharing all the cool facts about your town’s water towers! We think it’s awesome how you WONDERed what it might be like for a fish to live inside a water tower…that was super creative thinking! :-)

  2. I see water towers every day as I’m going to school! They are ginormous!! I always wanted to climb up the side to the top..and I think it will be about llamas, too! ;)

    Go LLAMAS!!!

    • Thank you for sharing about the water towers where you live, Morgan! We appreciate hearing about them! Thanks for taking a guess about tomorrow’s Wonder, too! :-)

  3. That is a great way to tell how water towers work, and I think that it was so cool about the smiley face water tower and the giant peach water tower. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

    • We liked learning about those decorative water towers, too, Sydney! We think it must be fun to live in a town with a crazy, creative water tower like one of the ones in today’s Wonder! :-)

    • You guys are super guessers, Stefani and KD, so we hope you are right about tomorrow! There are LOTS of other Wonder Friends who think we might be WONDERing about llamas tomorrow, too! :-)

    • We’re sorry you don’t care for visiting Wonderopolis, Niya! There is so much to learn about here! We hope you will visit us again soon and join us as we WONDER about the world around us! :-)

  4. We liked watching the water tower fall. Where is that video from? Thanks for all of the great wonders, we are looking forward to tomorrow!

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked the video for today’s Wonder, Mr. Draper’s Class! The video shows the demolition of a water tower in Dublin, OH. It was built in 1982. Before it was “decommissioned” last year, it held ONE MILLION gallons of water! That’s one BIG water tower! :-)

    • We think it’s GREAT that you shared your comment with us today to let us know you liked the water tower video, Hannah! THANKS! :-)

  5. Wow! That’s a lot of water. I did not know that they come in different sizes because all of the ones I have seen looked all the same sizes. I wondered how they could hold that much water.

    • It’s AWESOME that you learned some fun, new facts about water towers by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®, Selina! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis! :-)

  6. Hello Wonderopolis! We were so excited to see today’s video because…WE LIVE IN DUBLIN, OHIO!!! We all know where that water tower was located and Mrs. Guerin used to drive past it every day. She said after they knocked it down and took away some of the metal, it looked like a space ship (like the one in Men in Black). It is amazing that there used to be 1 million gallons of water in that tower! It’s also amazing that there is a water tower even bigger than ours. Thanks! ☺

    • We were WONDERing if we’d hear from any of our AMAZING Dublin Wonder Friends today, Mrs. Guerin’s 2nd Grade Class, and we’re so glad we DID! Thanks for sharing your personal connection to today’s Wonder and that SUPER, DUPER, BIG water tower in the video! :-)

  7. Today’s wonder was really interesting because we think it gives us a lot of facts about water towers that we didn’t know. We recognized the water tower in the video since it was located in our own city of Dublin, Ohio!

    • Woo, hoo! Some more of our AWESOME Dublin Wonder Friends have left us a comment today! Thanks so much for sharing that you also had a personal connection to the water tower in today’s Wonder video, Mrs. Watson’s Class! :-)

    • Thanks so much for sharing how you feel about today’s Wonder, Andresantos! We appreciate your opinion and are SUPER glad you are a friend of Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Some water towers really DO hold a LOT of water, don’t they, Dylan? Thanks for letting us know you love learning in Wonderopolis! We love learning here, too! :-)

    • Thanks, Travis! We’re so glad you enjoyed exploring it and learning some cool new facts about water towers! :-)

    • Hello, Mya! We are sad to hear that you don’t care for Wonderopolis. We hope you will give learning here another try by exploring other Wonders of the Day! We have over 540 Wonders to choose from, so we’re SURE there are LOTS of them that you will enjoy! :-)

    • We really like your comment, Caitlin! Thanks for having such a positive attitude about learning in Wonderopolis! We think that ROCKS! :-)

    • Hi, Madison! We’d like to thank YOU for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend and letting us know you like exploring Wonderopolis and learning new stuff…we really like learning new stuff here every day, too! :-)

  8. I think that we have water towers to store our water to keep the clean from the dirty water. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about why we have electricity.

    • We like that guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, The Flures! Great job! We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow to see if your guess was correct! :-)

  9. Plus I think it’s for storage! Just to add to my other WONDER! Have a nice day.

    Keep it WONDERing

    The Flures

    • We like that guess about tomorrow’s Wonder, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! We WONDER about llamas sometimes, so maybe we will all get to learn new things about them! We’ll have to check out tomorrow’s Wonder to see for sure, though! :-)

  10. Hello, I am super happy today and I love this wonder. My class is having a field trip to the water works museum.

    • We’re glad you’re happy today, Mrs. Wilbanks! How FUN that your class is having a field trip! We think a visit to a water works museum sounds really WONDERful! :-)

    • We can’t wait either, Camille! We get super excited to see each next day’s Wonder…we love the surprise of learning something new! :-)

  11. Wonderopolis needs to have more interesting stuff!!!!!!!!!!! Please and thank you.

    Peace and blessings, peace and blessings.

    • Hi, Wilbanks! Thanks for leaving us this comment! Did you know there are over 540 Wonders of the Day here in Wonderopolis? With all that WONDERing going on, we’re certain there are more than a few Wonders you will find interesting! Happy WONDERing! :-)

    • We’re not sure what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, Marie, but we like your idea for a future Wonder of the Day® very much! Thanks so much for suggesting it! :-)

    • It IS cool to learn by exploring the WONDER of Wonderopolis, isn’t it, Telbie? Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER question, KF Dragons! The water tower in the video was old (it was built in 1982) and the local government “decommissioned” it, or decided that it wasn’t safe or that it didn’t do as good of a job holding water as some of the city’s newer water towers. They decided to tear down the water tower. Thanks so much for WONDERing about water towers with us today! :-)

  12. We live in Vancouver and we have a lot of rain!!!!!! We don’t have very many water towers. If we could fill a tower, we would fill it with slurpees, $100.00 bills, invisibility or coke! We are looking forward to tomorrow’s wonder. Devin was wondering how you get the sniff in a scratch and sniff sticker?

    • Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and sharing about where you guys live, Mrstsgrade3s! We think we would REALLY like your water tower…all of the things you would put inside it are AWESOME! We also think Devin’s idea would make a GREAT future Wonder of the Day®! We have always WONDERed how they get the sniff in those stickers, too! :-)

  13. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Water towers have water inside the big bubble part and it also has pipes. The pipes take the water down into other pipes leading to people’s homes and maybe even your own! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about stars.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige :)

    • We like how you described what happens to the water in the tower, Paige! Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  14. We LIVE IN DUBLIN, TOO! I think the video is very cool! I wondered, did you guys take it down on purpose or accidentally? Also, I thought the video was AWESOME! I learned that each foot of a water tower’s height provides a little less than half a pound per square inch of pressure! I also learned that water towers can be a local symbols of pride! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about llamas, because llama rhymes with pajama! THANK YOU!

    • You sure learned a LOT about water towers by exploring this Wonder about them, Elizabeth! Way to go! The water tower in the video was taken down on purpose because it was old and not in as great a shape as some of the newer water towers in Dublin! :-)

    • Hi, Clara! We’ll all have to wait to see what the next Wonder will be…we like your idea for it, though! :-)

  15. I watch this stuff every morning at school after a d d and d l r. This site is awesome. Who came up with it? I can’t believe my teacher found it! By the way, I’M YOUR BIGGEST FAN! By the way, my name is Laci.

    • Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend and leaving us this SUPER comment, Laci! We’re really happy to learn that you and your classmates like visiting Wonderopolis…woo, hoo! :-)

    • That’s super cool, Erin! Thanks for sharing! We think it is SO GREAT to hear from our Dublin, OH, Wonder Friends! You guys are AWESOME! :-)

    • You’re right about that, Clayton! We think that would a frightening thing to see! We’re glad there are engineers and other building professionals who work hard to make sure the water towers are built to withstand storms! :-)

    • Hello, Matthew! Thanks so much for sharing you personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! We’re sorry the storms were scary, but we think you were really lucky to experience getting to see the water tower taken down in person! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis again, Mya! We’re glad you gave exploring this Wonder another try! We hope you learned some GREAT new things! :-)

  16. We appreciate BOTH of your opinions, Mya and Royaunna! Thanks for letting us know what you think about Wonderopolis! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  17. This story about water towers are cool because the water tower fell and I don’t know why they knocked it down because they were like yay when if fell.

    • You’ve done a SUPER job WONDERing with us today, Romen, and we’re glad you’ve shared your thoughts about water towers, too! Way to use your awesome imagination – we’re so proud of you! :)

    • Hey, Vedha! Thanks for WONDERing with us! Do you have a water tower where you live? Do you ever Wonder how they work? If not, that is okay. We have lots of other Wonders that may peak your interest. Check out our “Explore Wonders” section. Enjoy, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do water towers work?
  • Why are water towers so tall?
  • How much water does the world’s largest water tower hold?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Wasn’t it cool learning about water towers in today’s Wonder of the Day? Keep learning by exploring the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • What do the water towers look like where you live? Jump online with a friend to check out a water tower photo gallery that will show you what various types of water towers look like.
  • Do you know much about water pressure? Without it, it would be really hard to take a shower! To learn a bit more about water pressure today, grab a few simple supplies and try A Simple Water Pressure Experiment. Have fun! What did you learn? Explain your findings to a friend or family member.
  • We all need water. And, of course, it’s important to store water in case of emergencies. But what if you could store anything in a tower? Fire up your imagination and think about what kind of tower you would build in your backyard if you could store anything you want. Your tower can be as tall or as short as you want it to be. You can make it look any way you want. What will it hold? Chocolate milk? Pizza? Love? Friendship? Hugs? Kisses? Be as creative as you want. Write a short story about building your tower and illustrate it with pictures. When you’re finished, email it to us or post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about and see pictures of your tower. Don’t forget to explain why you want to store whatever it is you’re storing!

Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Water Treatment Cycle resource to follow a drop of water from a lake through the treatment process, highlighting the four steps of the treatment process: coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, and storage.

 

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