Water towers and community identity
July 1, 2009

The central Nebraska community of Elba has a decision to make: Whether to tear down a 73-year-old water tower that no longer serves any purpose from an engineering standpoint. The town has added a new tank which makes the old water tower obsolete, but some residents see the tower as a sign of the town's identity. Some communities take their water towers the extra mile -- like Adair, Iowa, which has painted its water tower in a smiley-face motif (it's visible from Interstate 80), or Granger, Iowa, which has two towers, jokingly labeled "Hot" and "Cold". The matter of community identity is no small one: Pressure-booster stations and ground-storage tanks may be more efficient choices for some towns, but water towers are often the tallest structures in town and can provide a focal point unlike many other features of a town. More than a few of the photos taken of the storm damage in Parkersburg, Iowa, last year featured the town's iconic blue water tower.

July 2009
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last revised July 2009