Water tower

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Converted water tower from 1936 in the NOI Techpark Südtirol / Alto Adige in Bozen

Water tower is the name of an operating structure in the water supply, a high-level tank for storage of drinking water or industrial water has. With the elevated tank, a temporary sufficient amount of water is kept ready, as well as sufficient and even pressure in the connected water network .

Working principle

Functional principle: 1. Pump, 2. Water storage, 3. End user
Water tower on the Bruderholz in Basel, cross-section

The buildings connected to the water network are supplied with water solely with the help of the hydrostatic pressure resulting from the force of gravity . The elevated tank also serves as a compensation tank . The water taken from the water network leads to a reduction in the amount of water in the elevated tank. The elevated tank is therefore regularly refilled so that the water level remains at the same level as possible. In this way, the water pressure in the network is kept constant. In water networks with elevated tanks, pumps are only required to fill the elevated tank.

For sufficient pressure, all consumers must be lower than the elevated tank (principle of communicating pipes ). Tapping points that are higher up (e.g. high-rise buildings) require their own pressure boosting system.

Pros and cons, alternatives

Benefits include:

  • Hydraulically, water towers have a simple structure. Due to their design, they compensate for pressure fluctuations on the inlet side and fluctuations in withdrawal on the outlet side. This results in low demands on the filling or the filling pump.
  • Even without an energy supply, they can give off a certain amount of water. Reliability is z. B. important for drinking water hygiene.
  • They also serve as symbols and advertising media.

The disadvantage is:

  • The construction of a water tower is complex.
  • The quality of the water in the container, which has not been replaced for a long time, can be impaired.

The storage function of water towers can be replaced by near-earth water storage . The required pressure can also be generated with regulated pumps in pressure boosting systems in the water distribution system, but with a higher technical effort.


Grand Central Water Tower, Midrand, Gauteng
Water tower in Roihuvuori

The Schanzenturm in Hamburg, at its time one of the largest water towers in Europe, had a capacity of 4,600 m³. The Herten water towers with a capacity of 9000 cubic meters are among the largest elevated tanks of their kind in Germany.
One of the world's largest water towers today is the water tower in Roihuvuori near Helsinki, completed in 1977, with a capacity of 12,600 m³.
The Grand Central Water Tower Midrand in South Africa is an outstanding feature among the water towers , both in terms of its construction in the form of an upturned, 40 meter high cone and of the volume of 6,500 m³.

Construction / types

Water towers differ both in terms of their containers and their external appearance. There are massive towers (made of brick or concrete); In the industrial sector, however, mainly steel skeleton constructions were used. There are also wooden water towers.

The aqua globe is its own form of construction . This type of metal water tower was developed in Hungary in the late 1960s . It is a spherical water container on a column-like stand. This design was often used in the GDR .

Since a filled container causes a high compressive stress in the supports, the prevention of buckling must be given particular attention when dimensioning water towers . Since the risk of buckling is greatest for the axis with the lowest geometrical moment of inertia , water towers usually have symmetrical, in particular round, floor plans.

Rectangular container

The first water towers (from 1830) had rectangular water tanks with flat bottoms. Internal tie rods had to be used to reinforce the walls , which were susceptible to corrosion and made cleaning of the container difficult. Later, the containers were made round so that only the still flat floor had to be additionally supported by a layer of beams. This design was almost exclusively integrated into buildings.

Loft container

A constructive improvement arose in France from 1860 onwards. The so-called loft containers had a dished bottom , the connection of which with the round container wall acted as a pressure ring. However, the expansion of the pressure ring repeatedly led to damage to the connecting structures. The external distinguishing feature of this design is a water tank that only slightly protrudes from the stand component.

Intze container

Example of an Intze container: Chimney container in Dahlhausen

The problem of the expansion of the pressure ring was solved by the engineer Otto Intze in 1883 with a construction that became known as the Intze principle . The pressure ring is placed further under the container and the bottom is composed of an outer truncated cone and an inner dished bottom. In this way, all forces acting horizontally are balanced and cannot pass on any harmful tensions. A special design were the chimney containers , which were built in a ring around existing or newly built industrial chimneys from 1885, e.g. B. at the water tower in Dahlhausen . The first Intze tank was built in Remscheid in 1883.

Barkhausen container

With the so-called Barkhausen container (spherical bottom container) Georg Barkhausen developed a container with a hemispherical container bottom in 1898. The constant transition between the wall and the floor makes the support ring superfluous. The Barkhausen containers were built by the Dortmund company Aug. Klönne . The water tower of the Minister Stein colliery was the first container of this type to be built in 1899 . The water tower at Darmstadt Central Station was built according to this construction principle . Another example is the so-called Lanstroper Egg, completed in 1905, in the northeast of the city of Dortmund .

Klönne container

In 1898 August Klönne received a patent for a spherical container with a conical support. From 1906, water tanks of the Klönne type were mainly built. The supports acting on the circumference of the spherical container are usually connected tangentially to the container wall, as in the case of the Barkhausen containers.


Water tower from 1662 in Chrast in the Czech Republic (masonry from Pläner )

Drinking water supply

The oldest water tower in Germany in Augsburg

In the 15th century, the city ​​of Augsburg was a pioneer in the use of water art to supply drinking water . The oldest water tower in Germany is the Great Water Tower , built in 1416 at the waterworks at the Red Gate in Augsburg, the oldest waterworks in Germany and probably also in Central Europe.

In the second half of the 19th century, large numbers of water towers were built in Germany in order to guarantee the public supply of clean drinking water in the early days of the city , when there was increasing urbanization. The waterworks with large reservoirs and elevated tanks built during this period, in conjunction with supply and sewage pipes, made a significant contribution to preventing epidemics . Without the supply of the industrial cities with their often very cramped populations and large amounts of wastewater generating plants, epidemics of large proportions have repeatedly occurred.

Railway water towers

Water towers also served to keep a sufficient delivery volume ready for the water tanks of steam locomotives in the event of sudden large withdrawals . Starting with the development of the railway network , in Germany from 1840, the first elevated water tanks were built. These were not yet independent tower structures, but rather integrated as storage containers in station buildings, such as the Büchen railway water tower or, more recently, the water tower in the Dortmund depot . Later there were railway water towers designed as towers such as B. the one at the Hamburg-Altona depot . The typical capacity of larger railway water towers is around 400 m³, with which around ten tenders from large locomotives could be refueled without having to refill the tower container. In the Polish Iława (German Eylau) are three railway water towers that were built in the years 1871, 1915 and 1942nd

Extinguishing water storage

Water towers as extinguishing water reservoirs have the advantage that the water is already under pressure without the use of pumps and such systems also work in the event of a power failure.

Usage today

Mannheim water tower , out of service as a water reservoir since 2000. Planned and preserved as an architectural feature

In high-tech infrastructures such as in Central Europe, water towers are currently only built in rare cases and existing systems are relieved of the tasks of water supply, wherever possible. The reason for this lies on the one hand in the three to five times higher investment costs and on the other hand technical specifications and qualitative requirements for the drinking water must be observed during operation, which can lead to higher operating costs compared to underground tanks.

Water towers are more common in the United States . In large cities as a container on high-rise buildings and free-standing on land. They are often painted or at least bear the name of the city. In France, too, water towers are more common than in Germany, for example, especially in rural areas. In areas remote from the infrastructure such as B. in rural areas of Senegal , a water tower can be filled with a pump and diesel generator, which would be less suitable for continuous operation.

Military point of attack

On the grounds that water towers could also serve as “target reference points” for terrorists or as prominent points in the landscape that enable weapons such as guns to be targeted. B. Mortars are used, water towers in Iraq were destroyed by the US Army. In northern Syria, IS destroyed hundreds of water towers before it withdrew.

Conversion and further use of water towers

Otto Techow's water tower on the Fichtenberg in Berlin: Conversion as a weather station for the Meteorological Institute of the FU
1904 built water tower with pump wind turbine and Intze tank near Willegassen
Old water tower on the East Frisian island of Juist
Water tower in Unterpörlitz
Reservoir tower in Berlin-Charlottenburg
Former water tower in Nauen
Small wooden water tower in Kornwestheim
Former water tower in Oberkrämer- Schwante
Water towers at the Red Gate in Augsburg. In the foreground the upper fountain master house
Water tower in Löderburg near Staßfurt
Water tower in Athensleben near Staßfurt
The modern designed Mürwiker water tower in the Volkspark in Flensburg
Illuminated water tower on the Petrisberg in Trier

Today many of the still preserved water towers are structural and technical monuments.

An alternative to demolishing old water towers in need of renovation is their conversion . The technical installations (storage basins and pump systems) are often lost as a result, but this is how the shell can be preserved. The Danish Jægersborg Vandtårn , which was rebuilt in 2006, is noteworthy .

Another possibility is to use water towers in other ways beyond their actual function (additional use).

Some water towers are used as a lookout tower. There are also water towers with a tower restaurant , such as the Goldberg Tower in Sindelfingen or the Windrose in Viersen . As a rule, in the case of water towers with a viewing platform, visitors take an elevator to the viewing platform.

The use of both active and decommissioned water towers is also widespread as the location of transmission equipment in the VHF range with low power, such as for non-public land radio services and mobile radio . The converted Heidelberg television tower originally served as a water tower. Today it serves as the basic network transmitter of the SWR for FM and TV. The water tower in Waldenburg was also used as a transmission tower until 2009. The Wolfersberg water tower in Vienna is exceptionally used for radio technology and is used both for radio services in the VHF range and for a radio beacon in the long wave range.

The combination of water tower and chimney shows an original multiple use. The cylindrical water tank made of steel is typically about halfway up the chimney and surrounds it coaxially. The water tank usually has a flat conical roof and advertising text on the cylinder jacket. A certain flow of heat from the hot exhaust gas to the water can offer a side benefit if freezing is to be avoided.

Many water towers are converted into breeding grounds for birds and other animals by nature conservationists with little effort.

List of unused water towers

Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Other countries

List of converted water towers

Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Other countries

  • Water tower in Irkutsk , district Pervomajski → Club house and climbing wall of the cave exploration club
  • Zabrze Water Tower , Poland → Apartments (planned)

More lists

Relevant standards / regulations

  • Water Management Standards Committee [NAW] at DIN German Institute for Standardization eV (Ed.): Water supply - requirements for systems and components of water storage; German version EN 1508: 1998 . Beuth Verlag GmbH, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich 1998.
  • DVGW e. V. (Hrsg.): Technical rule worksheet W 300, water storage - planning, construction, operation and maintenance of water tanks in the drinking water supply . Wirtschafts- und Verlagsgesellschaft Gas und Wasser mbH, 2005, ISSN  0176-3504 .


  • Thomas Wieckhorst: New use of water towers. Meininger Verlag, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse 1996, ISBN 3-87524-112-6 .
  • Jan Werth: Causes and technical requirements for the development of elevated water tanks. In: Bernhard Becher , Hilla Becher : The architecture of the winding and water towers. Industrial architecture of the 19th century (= studies on the art of the 19th century. Volume 13). Prestel, Munich 1971, ISBN 3-7913-0323-6 , pp. 325-428 (Werth = also: Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 1969).

Web links

Commons : Water Towers  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Wasserturm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Russel C. Hibbeler: Technical Mechanics 2 Strength of Materials . 8th edition, Pearson Germany, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-86894-126-5 .
  2. ^ City of Augsburg. In: augsburg.de. Retrieved May 29, 2018 .
  3. ^ Martin Kluger: Hydraulic engineering and hydropower, drinking water and fountain art in Augsburg. 1st edition. Context Verlag, Augsburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-939645-72-6 , p. 2 .
  4. DVGW e. V .: Worksheet W 300, water storage - planning, construction, operation and maintenance of water tanks in the drinking water supply. DVGW German Association of the Gas and Water Industry e. V., Bonn 2004, paragraph
  5. ^ How Water Towers Work (article), Marshall Brain, howstuffworks, accessed 2014.
  6. Help for Africa - Water for Senegal ( Memento from March 20, 2014 in the web archive archive.today ), section Water project Gouye - Ndiogou, Franz Bickel u. a., 2013, accessed 2014.
  7. Remote Kenyan High School Supplied with Water , Cory Drake, accessed 2014.
  8. globalsecurity.org Globale Sicherheit.org; APPENDIX H: RANGE CARDS AND SECTOR SKETCHES (English).
  9. LiveLeak.com Video - Destruction of a water tower in Mosul .
  10. Wolfgang Bauer: Northern Syria - The great fate . In: ZEITMagazin . Hamburg January 25, 2018 ( zeit.de ).
  11. The Edisefettraffinerie Estermann, today VFI GmbH, had such a chimney from 1912 to at least 1970 in Wels , Upper Austria, at the former location on the railway north of Baumgartnerstrasse. The Company> Milestones vfi.co.at, accessed January 29, 2020.
  12. ↑ A hotbed of the water tower. ( Memento from January 2, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Convert the transformer house or water tower into an animal hotel .
  14. ^ Watertoorn Börkum. Watertoorn Börkum eV, accessed on March 14, 2016 .
  15. Homepage of the operator of the Stromeyersdorf water tower
  16. St | LN | Brigl & Bergmeister AG, Niklasdorf schlotforum.files.wordpress.com, accessed January 29, 2020.
  17. History brigl-bergmeister.com, accessed January 29, 2020.