D.C. residents east of the Anacostia River could soon find themselves under more pressure — at least when taking a shower.
For the first time in 71 years, DC Water will build a water tower. It will service customers east of the river, where water pressure historically has been much lower than in other parts of the city.
After more than 10 years of planning, the District’s water agency will move forward with a new storage tower on the St. Elizabeths campus in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast. DC Water coordinated with nearly a dozen agencies for approvals or permits for the tower, the agency said.
The 170-foot-high tank will store 2 million gallons of water and cost about $14 million. Construction is slated to begin in coming weeks, and is scheduled for completion in 2018.
The fact that the city hasn’t erected a new water tower since 1945 isn’t abnormal, says Chuck Sweeney, DC Water’s director of distribution and conveyance systems. Currently, the District has three working elevated water tanks; the new one at St. Elizabeths will be the fourth.
“It wasn’t necessary over the last 71 years,” Mr. Sweeney said. “We had adequate storage for the city.”
The new tank is being realized because of the need for greater water pressure in Anacostia for residents and safety purposes, Mr. Sweeney said.
The tower is just one more step to equalize water pressure throughout the District. DC Water planned years ago to improve pressure with a new pumping station, water tower and transmission mains. The pumping station was built in 2008, but the tower was delayed by the permitting and approval process.
With all the elements now in place, a new “water service zone” will be created south of the Fort Stanton reservoir in Southeast. Currently, that reservoir services all customers east of the Anacostia.
The new water tower will relieve the Fort Stanton reservoir of some of that burden.
“The completion of this tower and water mains will bring the area much-needed water pressure and will improve fire protection and water pressure in homes, schools and businesses,” DC Water General Manager George S. Hawkins said. “This is important for the area east of the Anacostia River to support the families, agencies and businesses there.”
Pumping stations push water up into a tower, and gravity helps increase water pressure down through the pipes when taps are opened in the surrounding zone. The farther an open tap is from a tower, the lower the water pressure.
For every 2.31 feet of elevation, water pressure rises 1 pound per square inch (psi). The Fort Stanton reservoir has an overflow elevation of about 258 feet, and the tank at St. Elizabeths will have a 310-foot overflow elevation — a 52-foot difference. That means the new tower will increase water pressure by 22 psi for customers in the lower Anacostia, Mr. Sweeney said.
The new tower also will help public safety in the surrounding neighborhoods: The higher water volumes and flow rates are better for fighting fires. And in power outages, storage tanks can provide water without electricity by relying on gravity to empty them.