Instructables
Running water is a great blessing that many people take for granted.  My family spent years in Haiti where my family was without running water for years.  When we moved to South America my dad wanted a to give our family more modern conveniences, and thus we needed a water tower.  This is an instrutables about how a concrete water tower is built from scratch in a third world country. 

The problem:
I live in a jungle village in the Amazon rainforest.  We are very fortunate to have running water that comes from the village, but it only runs three times a day and will not run at all some days.  It also doesn't have nearly enough pressure to run over a story in height.   As a family living here we wanted a better solution water problem

The solution:
The solution is a sixteen foot tall reenforced-concrete tower that holds two water tanks on top.  The tower holds 800 gallons of water equaling 6,672   pounds!  The water is pumped up to the tanks from a lower tank that collects rain water and the villages water.  Once in the upper tanks it is gravity fed to our house.  This system gives us water no mater if the villages water is running or if the electricity is off. 

Water towers like this one are nothing new in our area. Everyone who wants continual running water has to build one.  We originally built ours of  wood.  The wood held up for about thirteen years which is good considering this is a rain forest and termites are ferocious.  Once the wooden tower started making my Dad a little to nervous we decided to have a concrete one built. 

I didn't build it - a project like this is pretty significant - ,but I get to see how the workers did it.  The first step to learning is watching.  I want to show you in this instructables how local carpenters built this cement structure, and show you how you can do it too.  This is a big and dangerous project, so I would advise you to have have some knowledge on doing this.  This is an instructables geared more to get you thinking and give you the idea and basic instructions to building something like this.  Many instructables are things that I will never make or don't have the opportunity or need to make, but I appreciate the ideas and knowledge they give me.  Thank you instructablers for all the great instructables!   
 
I am not responsible for any injuries or problems that may come from making or using this water tower.  It is a big dangerous project, and the tower could be dangerous.    I am not responsible in any way for any hurt or injury you might face in building or using this project. 

Remember to vote for me.  I would love to win a concrete mixer.   (My back would love it too if I would have one here.)   :)

On to the building!

 
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rncbme8 months ago
This is an amazing accomplishment! Great Work. I know this will serve your family well for many, many years to come.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  rncbme8 months ago
Thanks!
woodpuppy8 months ago
This is some great work!! You would never get it by here in Germany,, But it is great work!!
billbillt8 months ago
great job!!
oldpunk6668 months ago
wow! great job!, especially considering the difficulties in logistics! i hope you win the mixer!
joefreezy706 months ago
congratulations on your ingenuity and hard labor. I don't think a lot of your contributors have tried to build something in a 3rd world country before so they may not get that simpler is better. I used to inspect concrete and reinforcing steel in the U.S. on anything from fountains to office buildings. I can't see the minor details on how you prepared the steel or what the dimensions of the foundation really are, but it looks for the most part stable as long as you aren't subject to high winds that would increase the loading at the top. they are right however, it would never pass code here in the US because it was not professionally engineered and we have too many lawyers. do you mind if I ask how much this cost to build in labor and materials?
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  joefreezy706 months ago
Thanks for the comment! Sorry for taking so long to reply! It is a honor to have a person with such knowledge on concrete congratulate me on my project! Thanks!
About the cost, the total for the build came up to about 1,600 us dollars. That includes labor and materials. I don't know if that is a good price or bad price, but that is what it cost. One reason the cost is high is the logistics of getting the material here. It is not simply calling a cement truck! All the material except the wood and sand were bought in here from the capitol city and had to be transported here by truck. The price of paying for a large truck to transport the material on jungle roads causes the price to go up. A project like this here requires an amazing amount of planning. For example, the wood was chain sawed from a tree in the jungle behind our house. Then the wood had to be carried to our house. Because some of the supplies were so long in coming, a lot of the wood got wood ants in it. That had to be dealt with too! Anyway, it cost about 1,600 dollars. We had some steel, cement, and gravel left too. Anyway thanks again for the comment!
JakeBlanton7 months ago
The maximum water pressure that this sort of gravity fed system will generate is around 7.35 psi. That would be at absolute ground level -- the water pressure at sinks would be less since they are a couple of feet higher. Here in the US, water pressure is usually at least 40 psi and in some areas, it can even be as high as 100 psi. I live in an area that is subject to infrequent high winds (thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes), so i would not trust that particular pedestal design. At the very least, I would add some guy wire cables from the top of it to various well anchored positions in the yard to make it more secure.
veeguy8 months ago
When I lived in Kenya I saw similar 2 post designs made of concrete. To eliminate the need for sawn wood forms, the constructors would dig the forms horizontally in the ground and line them with visqueen (plastic sheeting). After curing, the columns were dug free and erected.
billbillt veeguy7 months ago
Yes, here is the US that method is called "poured in place".. It is used extensively, and is a safe and common practice..
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  veeguy8 months ago
That is a good idea! Never thought of that. "Necessity is the mother of invention" - Plato. Thanks!
poofrabbit7 months ago
Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Concrete & Casting Contest! This was a fantastic instructable! Good luck!
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  poofrabbit7 months ago
Thanks! I am amazed it has made it as far as it has.
shawnlambert8 months ago
I think lucjoker is correct... and correct me if i am wrong, but isn't pouring concrete in sections like that without adding adhesives to the layers create a weak point? I didn't concrete adhered well after it dried.

In addition the barrels on top do not seem to be secured in any way... hurricane, or strong winds could blow a tank on to your home. You should at least strap them down with something, but railings embedded in the upper part of the concrete would provide more of a catch for those behemoths.

I did vote for you... mixing concrete by hand sucks..just promise you'll shore that thing up when you get the mixer.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  shawnlambert8 months ago
Thanks for voting for me! Sorry I am so late getting back to you. Thanks for your concern and advice. I am sure the tower is strong. I don't know much about "cold joints" and their strength, but I trust the builders of this tower knew what they were doing. This is a common design around here, and they don't just collapse.

About strapping down the tanks - if they were empty that would be a good idea. You have to remember that four hundred gallons of water are in each of those tanks. It would take a lot to blow them off. It probably would blow our house down before them. :) I do see the concern, though. We don't live in a hurricane prone area, thankfully. If we did, that might be a problem. Thanks again for the comment and the vote!
LancasterPA8 months ago
Nice Job. I hope to do this sometime soon too. I am in the Philippines and our water pressure from morning to night is about 10 psi or less. I take a shower at night because not only does the pressure go up to 40 psi but the water is cooler. The water is so hot during the day I can't even take a refreshing rinse. Our water lines are 2 or 3 inches from the surface of the road and the sun baking it really heats up the water. Good for you, great instructionable.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  LancasterPA8 months ago
Thanks! Hope you have success with your project.
howgoodisit8 months ago
I hope like hell you do not get earthquakes there!
Next project you should do is "Turn house into concrete bomb shelter to protect from falling water towers"
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  howgoodisit8 months ago
We don't have regular earthquakes - thankfully. I like your hummer - I love to joke around too. I try to act a little more "civilized" on instructables. :) Thanks!
Tommy D8 months ago
Wow, what a project! You've got my vote.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  Tommy D8 months ago
Thanks!
ElectroFrank8 months ago
I can see the height is needed for water pressure and defence from wildlife, but wouldn't a permanent ladder (rungs in the concrete) be safer for regular essential maintenance operations ? In the "civilised" world (I use the term humourously), such structures would commonly have a ladder with a full length circular cage to prevent falls. And a railing around the platform. A bit of extra expense, but it could save a life.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  ElectroFrank8 months ago
Hi ElectroFrank! - Nice name! Thanks for the comment! In response to a permanent ladder- that would have been a good idea. We didn't have a steel ladder to put in place, and we don't have a welder to make one so we didn't put one in place. The other problem with having a ladder always in place, is that it would be an easy way for curious and not to wise kids to climb to the top. As it is, I have only been up on top of it once, and I was very careful. I do see the concern for falling off, though. That wouldn't be good. Thanks for the suggestion, though. We are very careful. Thanks.
cmillburn8 months ago
It always amazes me what people in a 3rd world country can do without power tools, cranes and the like. A true example of the ingenuity of the human being. Great job documenting and describing the steps. I, too, have made concrete with a shovel, cement, gravel and water - a backbreaking job.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  cmillburn8 months ago
Thanks for the comment! I am amazed too of what people can do in 3rd world countries. - More instructables coming on that, if I have time. Thanks!
lucjoker8 months ago
Sorry ,but a 2 leg tower is very unstable .Try sitting on a 2 leg chair.
It can tumble over very easy with all this weight on top .
Your base is too small (only a fraction of the original tower)
The legs are not poured "in" the base plate.They just stand on it ,holded by 8 steel rods.
This won't be a problem with 3 or 4 legs.(like the old tower)
This 2-leg tower can topple over only in 2 directions ,so 50% chance it falls on your house with a 6672 pound blow.Always make sure if it falls it won't be on your house or garage or .....
Last,make a ladder of steel bar piece stuck in the concrete (put them in before the concrete pouring) very handy later.
I'm sorry for all the honest work and the best intentions ,but keep safety on top .
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  lucjoker8 months ago
Thanks for the comment! I understand your concern with this tower, but I have confidence it will hold up well. I do not know what type of masonry experience you have, but the guy who built this knew what he was doing. I have trust in his design and experience. He may not be a structural engineer or something, but he has good hands on experience passed on by his father.

The tower is really not that unstable. We have some neighbors who have a concrete tower that only has a single column. The column is about the same size as ours. It holds one tank on top and is slightly lower then ours. It proves that even a single column can hold the weight fine. It has been there for years. Water towers such as ours are common here, and I have never heard of a injury from a tower like this.

In response to a steel ladder- that would have been a good idea. We didn't have a steel ladder to put in place, and we don't have a welder to make one so we didn't put one in place. The other problem with having a ladder always in place, is that it would be an easy way for curious and not to wise kids to climb to the top. As it is, I have only been up on top of it once, and I was very careful. I do see the concern for falling off, though. That wouldn't be good.

In concern to the swaying - it is not a foundation failure or "cold" joint failure. Concrete columns of that size and of that height sway a little. Sky scrapers sway a little, and yet, they are safe. I have confidence in the builders of this tower and in this tower. I do appreciate the comment and warnings, though. Thanks!
geraldpaxton8 months ago
Interesting project, but an accident waiting to happen. Concrete on this scale does not flex like are coconut tree. If there is motion at the top with a 200 lb. person, there is failure of the foundation or the 'cold' joint at the base. A 40 mph. breeze will load the top about 400 lbs. and may topple it. If there are more like this in your area there are more accidents waiting to happen.
You have access to the internet, do a little research and see why this design would not pass safety codes anywhere. You might salvage it with some guying or reinforcement.
Good Luck!
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  geraldpaxton8 months ago
Thanks for the comment! I understand your concern with this tower, but I have confidence it will hold up well. I do not know what type of masonry experience you have, but the guy who built this knew what he was doing. I have trust in his design and experience. He may not be a structural engineer or something, but he has good hands on experience passed on by his father.

The tower is really not that unstable. We have some neighbors who have a concrete tower that only has a single column. The column is about the same size as ours. It holds one tank on top and is slightly lower then ours. It proves that even a single column can hold the weight fine. It has been there for years. Water towers such as ours are common here, and I have never heard of a injury from a tower like this.

In response to the swaying, it is not a foundation failure or "cold" joint failure. Concrete columns of that size and of that height sway a little. Sky scrapers sway a little, and yet, they are safe. I have confidence in the builders of this tower and in this tower. I do appreciate the comment and warnings, though. Thanks!
darman128 months ago
It's really cool that you observed what those workers were doing and decided to share it with us!
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  darman128 months ago
Thanks!
blkhawk8 months ago
I have seen concrete structures built to support water tanks. The structures are mostly built like cubes and the interiors are seldom used as sheds or shops.

water tank on the roof
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  blkhawk8 months ago
Thanks for the picture and the comment! You can easily make a room under one of these. Some people do that here. My dad was thinking of putting a little shed under ours since it already has a cement floor. The only problem with that is with our two legged design, the tower can sway slightly, and so it might crack concrete walls. Think of it like a coconut tree. They sway but are extremely strong.
you can build a shed under the tower, just put some space between the posts and the walls, for the swaying to prevent cracking... good luck... hope you win the mixer...
Thanks!
Talib8 months ago
I second Chuckyd. One important rule of thumb with concrete structures: Cure time of 21 days before load is added. You casted the foundation and left it for a week or two. It is not enough. All in all good effort.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  Talib8 months ago
Thanks for the comment! The "week or two" cure time is for the foundation and columns to cure before pouring the top. We waited about a month before we added the tanks and filled them with water. I appreciate the advise. Thanks.
looking at the picture, I think that the 3 pipes from the tower to your house is providing additional support...(if you have some extra pipes or metal bars you can put some more?)..... it will stand as is...... most water towers ( with 4 posts), the pipes go down to the ground before going to the house....
onemoroni18 months ago
You got my vote for you hard work and excellent result.
th3_jungle_inv3ntor (author)  onemoroni18 months ago
Thanks!
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