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Big Money In Water Towers

10 November, 2021

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Water towers are costly to paint and can take up a big part of a smaller city’s budget. For many towns and cities, an old water tower is a symbol of history and pride, even if it’s no longer in service. For a commercial contractor, it’s a chance for some high-profile work that demands a rigid safety protocol. Here’s a look at three cities investing in some big projects.

Lighthouse on the Prairie

“The water tower of a town stands out,” said a resident of Airdrie, Alberta in a letter to the city board. “In some towns, they are unique enough that you know which town you are approaching just by the shape of the tower.” Currently the city’s decommissioned water tower greets travelers with an ugly blotch of chipping paint that looks something akin to Jupiter’s red spot. The tower was built in the 1950s to service a village of 400 people, but now with a population of over 68,000, while structurally sound, its purpose is as a reminder of a historic past and as a landmark roadside attraction.

Is it worth painting? The population seems to think so, but the city estimates that it will cost about $310,000 CAD to sandblast and repaint the tower. Next month the issue goes to the Community Services Advisory Board.

After some debate, the city has decided to apply to get the tower designated as a historical resource, which could provide opportunities to obtain grants to fund the repair. The tower was last painted in 2003, after the city council unanimously voted against taking it down.


Water Tower Repaint Pricing

Paint Before Prices Go Up

Ocean City, Maryland is planning to invest over $750,000 in its water tower; its budget of $350K to paint the outside of the tower doubled when the city realized it needed to paint the inside as well, and it needed to do it now. The interior of this tower was last painted 15 years ago, and although it had been given some spot maintenance, an inspection of the structure indicated that it was time for a complete interior recoat.

The contractor submitting the lowest bid — over $100,000 less than the nearest competitor — had to withdraw due to some math errors, so the next lowest bidder, a Pennsylvania contractor that specializes in painting water towers and other similar structures, got the job even though the estimate was slightly over budget.

This project, however, is seeing what’s become common issues of a labor shortage and escalating material costs, so while the city initially was reticent to paint both the interior and exterior of the tower at the same time, the council made the decision to utilize the contractor who was already on site (and had bid on the interior as well) rather than put it off and risk an even more expensive project later. The Art League of Ocean City is funding the repaint of its logo on the tower.


Water Tower Repaint Cost

The Century Mark

Marysville, Washington is investing close to half a million in its 100-year-old water tower. It’s out of commission, but due to its historic significance as well as some safety concerns, it’s important for the city to keep the tower in good shape. While often seen as the “face of the city,” the exterior coating has come to the end of its useful life, and a crew started work near the end of October. The plan is to blast off the current coat of paint, repair any corrosion, and then apply a fresh coating. The tower will see a couple other improvements including an electrical outlet at the top of the catwalk to help with the holiday lights, a hatch to allow better access to inspect the interior, and some safety harness connectors.

The new coating is a two tone “cool gray” and “dark forest green” to match the city logo and is expected to last for 35 years. Afterwards, it’s party time, as the city is considering a 100th birthday party for the tower after the job is finished.


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