Rooftop Water Tanks New York

Image by D B Cooper

Rooftop Water Tanks – ‘Tanks a Million!’

The taste of New York’s drinking water is as good as say, Vancouver’s. In Vancouver, water is delivered to the faucet; in New York, only to the curb if you live in a building with more than six storeys. If so, the water is pumped to the wooden tank on the roof, then slips down to your apartment. There are around 15,000 rooftop tanks in New York.

It’s all about pressure. Water needs to be pumped to tanks above 60 feet to feed faucets above 60 feet.

You see large wood tanks atop many buildings; they’re totemic, like the fire escapes attached to the outside of older buildings. One company that builds them is more than 150 years old.

Being made of Western Red Cedar, the tanks retain enough of the water’s heat in winter to prevent freezing.

Periodically, the tanks are inspected and water is frequently found to be contaminated. Plus, mandated inspections are not rigorously enforced, and sometimes rarely done.

What do they find at the bottom of those tanks? Drowned birds, mice, animal parts and feces — even people! A ‘homeless’ person was discovered living in the space between a tank roof and its lid.

Additionally, at least two of the three companies that dominate the tank installation business use an epoxy which is not approved for use in drinking water, a violation of the city’s health code.

Where are they? Everywhere — look up.

For your peace of mind, know that elevators are a more forcefully regulated concern.

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Details about this spot



West 72nd Street 74, New York

Opening Times

24 hours


Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)