Monday, February 23, 2015

A nation is only as strong as its water towers.

The site of the irreplaceable Lileks first introduced me to Minneapolis's Washburn Park Water Tower, a fantastic bulk of water-filled goodness guarded by grim sentinels of purity and health.

Isn't that fantastic? It's impossible to look at that thing and not think about the importance of clean water. This structure was built in 1931 by men who well knew what happened to people when the water was dicey. Or in places right now where it is dicey.

For example: Bengal, 1817-1824, cholera pendemic kills hundreds of thousands. New York, 1832, cholera epidemic kills 3,515. London, 1854, cholera outbreak from a single water pump kills 616 people. Zimbabwe, 2008-2010, cholera kills 4,293.

Any wonder clean water was elevated, celebrated, with fantastic towers like the 1883 Weehawken Water Tower?

Sadly, we don't do much to make our water towers pretty these days. Here's a local one:

A dull lump shoved in at the end of a street, surrounded by trees in the hope that no one will ever see it. This is the kind of thing you put up when you take its benefits for granted.

I know frills and architectural niceties are pricey, but municipal projects always seem to run over budget anyway, with nothing to show for the expense. This is a structure erected for a poorly educated citizenry unaware of the threats posed by untamed nature.

You could at least make it pretty. I've seen more attractive basement water heaters.

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