Transforming Towers: What Is Happening To Water Towers Across Oklahoma?

The water tower has long been a symbol of a city. However, 25-percent of those towers in Oklahoma stand empty. With the expense of fixing the water towers being half a million or more, towns need help to afford the upkeep or renewal they need to keep them in use.

Thursday, August 10th 2023, 8:51 am



The water tower has long been a symbol of a city. High above nearly every town, the tanks have always been much more than water storage. They are reliable systems that give residents, businesses & firefighters adequate, high-pressure H20.

They are also iconic and the first thing you usually see when driving to a city. But 25-percent of those towers in Oklahoma stand empty.

With the expense of fixing the water towers being half a million or more, towns need help to afford the upkeep or renewal they need to keep them in use.

In the town of Ripley, the demand to fix the once-in-use water tower would be $700,000 or more to repair, according to Mike Cokriel with the City of Ripley's Utility Department. He said their structure is in question due to time, rust and holes being shot in it.

Okemah's Hot & Cold water tower icons were dismantled due to lack of funding to restore the aging structures.

The Mayor of Blanchard, Michael Scalf, shares the same concern for their oldest water tower's price, except it's a need more than a want for the town of Blanchard.

"The main problem is Blanchard has grown so much. We need more water," said Scalf.

According to Scalf, in 1926, the price tag to refurbish their 100-year-old water tower would cost upwards of $1.5 million. Three of the tanks in town are reserve tanks for city water. Even with 30 wells to pull from, that wasn't cutting it.

Even though the tanks might not be in use as intended, cities across Oklahoma are finding ways for their water towers to remain a monumental part of their communities.

In the neighboring city of Norman, they use their water tower for a more fitting job; a job fit for a champion.

According to Joe Seiter of Dunham Engineering, Norman started rehabbing water towers years ago. 

A water tower once used for supplying potable water to the locals, now houses the brown water for keeping up Owens Field where the Sooner football team plays and the field that the University of Oklahoma Sooner Softball Champs use daily, just to name a few.

Now, some of the towers serve as cell phone towers or remain the same as in the town of Perkins, where the words "Home of Pistol Pete" remain intact on the town's water tower after getting a face lift.

Celina, Texas not only had theirs repainted, but added color-changing lights to the catwalk.

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