Building a Water Tower

The author recalls the experience of erecting a water tower; including materials, decisions, the tower, the upper platform and diagrams.

| May/June 1976

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    Figure 1. The author was determined that a lack of electricity wouldn't stop him from having running water.
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    Figure 2.
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    Figure 3 and 4.
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    Figure 5.
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    Figure 6 and 7.

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Click on the Image Gallery for referenced figures and diagrams.

Maybe there's still some city dweller left in me, or perhaps I've just grown too accustomed to the conveniences of modern-day American life . . . but if there's one thing my year-round living quarters must have, it's running water. Thus, when I finally built my long-dreamed-of log cabin in Virginia—off in the woods, with no electricity—I resolved that the dwelling would be equipped with certain luxuries. Namely, a shower, a flush toilet, and a sink tap that really worked!

Now that didn't seem to me to be much to ask . . . but after giving the problem some thought, I found that I wasn't at all sure just where my precious water system's pressure was going to come from. Initially, I figured that a storage tank (which could easily be refilled by a little gasoline engine-driven pump) perched in the cabin's loft would probably handle the job satisfactorily. When I imagined what the inevitable leak in that tank would do to my dwelling's living area, however, I scrapped that idea fast!

The solution to my dilemma turned out to be a 375-gallon steel tank mounted atop a 15-foot-high platform at the edge of the clearing outside my cabin (see Fig. 1). The weight of the water stored in this elevated container produces about six pounds of static pressure in the cabin's water lines. This is less than the pressure supplied by most city systems and electric pumps . . . but is enough so that my shower delivers a pleasant, gentle spray and my toilet's flush tank refills without any annoying hiss.

In short, I've had nothing but success with my make-do water system . . . and I'd like nothing better than to tell you how you can construct your own version of the Hilton Homestead Water Tower.


Start by obtaining a galvanized steel tank—the kind with a pipe fitting in the bottom and a conical lid on top—through one of the farm catalogs for around $140 (at least that's what I paid for mine three years ago). This will be the most costly part of your system.

11/13/2013 10:50:05 AM

Dear Mr. Watertower Maker I have one question - I know you stated you fill the container by using a small pump - but where exactly does THAT water come from? Signed, I want a tower!

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