What's the Deal with the Detroit Zoo Water Tower?

A couple days ago we shared an article on our social media pages about old water towers that were converted into really cool houses (I seriously recommend checking it out. Click here to see the article) and it got me thinking. Water towers are one of those things that you see once in awhile as you’re driving, but you never think much of them. I drove past the Detroit Zoo water tower earlier this week for the hundredth time, but this time I couldn't help but wonder, why is that thing there? What does it do? So, naturally, I went on a curiosity-fueled research spree.

When you turn on a faucet, the water pressure in the system is what pushes the water out of the faucet. Low water pressure is one of the most irritating plumbing problems; the simplest tasks like showering or washing dishes can become incredibly time-consuming. So, how does a city ensure that there’s always enough water pressure for everyone, even in periods of high water usage?

The answer to that question is water towers. Unlike electric-powered water pumps, a water tower uses the power of gravity to create water pressure in the system, which is incredibly cost-effective. Potable water that’s stored up in the tank is released throughout the day, and then the tank is refilled by a pump during the night when water usage is low.

Water towers ensure the reliability of the water system in case of emergencies, too. Their tanks are usually sized to hold a day’s worth of water for the community it serves; in case an emergency causes the municipal pumps to shut down, the water tower ensures that the community will still have running water for 24 hours. They can also be built specifically for other uses, such as emergency fire protection or industrial use in factories.

So next time you turn on the water as you get ready for your day, you might have a nearby water tower to thank!


Fun fact: As it turns out, the Detroit Zoo water tower is currently non-functional. It used to hold 1.5 million gallons of water and served the north Woodward area’s water system up until 1984, when it was shut down due to a defective valve. Instead of demolishing it, however, the mayor at the time argued that it had become a landmark associated with the Zoo, and it was decided that the water tower would stay. Ever since, the tower has served as a unique billboard for the Detroit Zoo, and now it even serves as a home for a family of endangered falcons.


If you ever find yourself with low water pressure, it's probably not a water tower's fault. Certain issues in your home's plumbing system can cause changes in water pressure. Call us at (586) 459-0040 and we'll fix it up!