Water towers are something most of us probably don’t think about until we see one on the horizon. To Des Moines Water Works (DMWW), water storage facilities are a vital part of the infrastructure and a significant part of the utility’s history. DMWW owns and maintains numerous water storage facilities. From a technical standpoint, water storage facilities are divided into three categories: water towers, standpipes and ground storage. Water towers are basically large storage tanks on legs. Standpipes are simply tall vertical tanks. Ground storage reservoirs are shorter but larger diameter storage tanks that sit on or slightly below ground.
Des Moines’ first water storage facility was constructed in 1891 at 17th Street and Crocker. Made of steel with a lacy ironwork railing and spiral stairway, it held 530,000 gallons of water. It was torn down in 1939 after 40 years of service.
The Hazen Tower at 4800 Hickman is the oldest and technically, the only water tower in Des Moines. Constructed of concrete and steel in 1930-1931, the 110 foot tower, which holds 1.7 million gallons (mg) in its elevated tank, was named after Allen Hazen who designed the tower. A prominent New York engineer and pioneer in the area of water treatment, he died before construction was completed. For many years, a large arrow was painted on the top of the tower to point the way to the airport for pilots.
In 1955, two standpipes were built and named after long-term Board of Water Works Trustees members. The Nollen Standpipe at 26th and Hull is Des Moines’ largest, with a capacity of 4.2 mg. The Wilchinski Standpipe at SE 9th and Pleasantview Drive stores slightly more than 2 mg.
Probably the most familiar is the Tenny standpipe because of its location near Sears at Merle Hay Mall. Construction of this 4.1 mg water storage facility was completed in 1960 and named after Morris K. Tenny, who served as the General Manager of DMWW from 1955-1968.
Water storage facilities outside the city of Des Moines which are owned and operated by DMWW include two towers in Southeast Polk with a combined capacity of 0.7mg. The smaller tower (0.3 mg) located at 6538 NE 12th Ave., is scheduled to be removed the summer of 2011. Other facilities in Polk County include the Polk County Ground Storage Tank on NE 14th St. which holds 5 mg; the L.P. Moon Ground Storage Facility (named after a former Board member) in Clive stores 6 mg and the Shared East Side Elevated Storage Tank, which holds 2.5 mg, was built in 2009-2010, bordering between Pleasant Hill and Altoona. (Interestingly enough, Pleasant Hill’s logo is on the south side of the facility and Altoona’s is on the north side).