A few years ago, the City of Los Alamos New Mexico was hit by a devastating wild fire. One of the first things affected was the electric supply to the city's water pumping station. With no power to operate the pumps, the city was left with a water tower as the sole means of fire protection. If the water tower was completely full at the time the pumps shut down, there would be 200,000 gallons of water available to fight the fire. While the fire department was busy using what they had to fight the fire, the water department was busy trying to find generators to get the pump station back online. Several small generators were being daisy-chained together to try and get enough amperage to operate one of the pumps in the station. While the fire was raging out of control, the water in the tower was being rapidly depleted. Many of the residents were evacuating the city while others were busy attaching make shift sprinklers to the roof of their houses. Water pressure for garden hoses quickly changed from a luxury to a necessity. Water availability for fire hydrants quickly became priority number one.
When the water tower is empty, millions of dollars worth of fire fighting equipment becomes useless. Highly skilled and expensively trained fire fighters, resort to twenty-dollar shovels until the only thing left to do is run for their lives. The irony here is that there were eight million gallons of water sitting in a ground storage tank that could not be utilized. As fire swept though the city, it even scorched the paint from the eight million gallon ground storage tank. This gives new meaning to the old phrase "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink".
When there are millions of gallons in reservoirs or ground storage, being able to access this water can be the difference between real fire protection and a false sense of security offered by a water tower. Accessing water from ground storage is as simple as, having an emergency generator. This will keep the pumps running when the power goes off. Diesel powered fire pumps could also be used. Fire pumps have been used dependably on things like offshore drilling rigs, for many years. These diesel powered fire pumps and emergency generators can give and almost unlimited supply of water with which to fight fires. These pumps running on an alternative fuel source can also supply regular drinking water for extended periods of time after other natural disasters as well. When the electric grid system has been destroyed from things like ice storms or hurricanes, emergency pumps or generators can continue supplying water for months or years if needed, when water towers would have been empty within hours.
Emergency generators and pumps also cost a fraction of the price of a water tower. A diesel powered fire pump may cost $25,000.00 as compared to water towers, which can range from $300,000.00 to $3,000,000.00. Not to mention the personal risk and high cost of insurance when building or working on water towers. Fiscally responsible governments should see these savings as new resources. Money saved could be put to much better use on things like schools, roads, and the welfare of the people. Billions of dollars are being wasted each year on water towers, when other public services are going unfunded and our deficit continues to spiral out of control. Eliminating water towers will also make a big change in the looks of our skylines. Mountain views and ocean front properties would no longer have their views distorted. Cities on the plains could better enjoy sunrises and sunsets without a water tower bulging on the horizon. In this age of technology, pilots no longer need the name of the town on a water tower in order to navigate. Antennas for cell phones and the like could be placed in much less expensive and obtrusive places. Eliminating water towers would also keep our youths from being tempted to risk their lives touting the year of their graduation or to defend the honor of their sister.
If water systems for large communities can be effectively operated without water towers, then smaller communities could also use this new technology to eliminate large hydro-pneumatic tanks. Eliminating these hydro tanks could also save millions of dollars. Smaller communities could use the money being saved for a new library or equipment for the fire department. Elevated water storage is a technology that was invented by the Greeks and Romans. The use of newer technology can offer a more dependable supply of water and fire protection while saving our government and taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.
Backup Pumps Give Real Fire Protection
There is an option for emergency water that can add huge volumes of available water at a much lower cost than water towers and hydro tanks. Consider a diesel powered pump, gas powered pump, or an emergency generator for the existing electric pumps. This will not only be much less expensive than a large pressure tank or water tower, but can give you access to millions of gallons of water directly from the reservoir or aquifer. Compare this to only 1,500 gallons of usable water available from a 10,000 gallon pressure tank, or even a couple hundred thousand gallons available from a water tower. Being able to access the water stored in your main reservoir or aquifer during a power out condition, can make the difference between real fire protection and a false sense of security. A backup pump running on an alternative fuel source will also give long term emergency water when things like an ice storm shut down electric grids for days, weeks, or even longer periods of time.
A backup generator can keep your regular pump system running during a power outage. A diesel or gas powered pump, controlled with a Cycle Stop Valve can be started up automatically when there is a loss of electric power or from a low system pressure. A large pump can supply water for fire protection and controlled with a Cycle Stop Valve can just as easily supply very small amounts of water for domestic use. A $25,000.00 fire pump can be a more reliable and longer term solution to fire protection than a $250,000.00 water tower. The difference in price means you could have 10 redundant fire pump systems located in different quadrants of a city for the same money as a single water tower. Using 10 different ground storage tanks to supply the 10 fire pumps in different locations, even with an earthquake splitting a city in half water would still be available from these different locations.
With constant pressure control for pump systems, water towers and hydro tanks are no longer needed to reduce pump cycling. (see Constant Pressure Valves, and What Are Cycle Stop Valves) Now there are better ways of fire protection as well which should lead to water towers and hydro tanks becoming obsolete.