Reedley soon to flush out downtown water towers

City of Reedley’s strategic capital planning calls for taking downtown water towers out of service, but leaving them in place, due to high inspection costs and lack of need

Reedley’s iconic water towers, seen from Tenth St. (Kenny Goodman)
Reedley’s iconic water towers, seen from Tenth St. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published February 29, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

REEDLEY – Through focused strategic capital planning and phased capital improvement projects, the city of Reedley is working to protect its past and the iconic symbols of its community while thinking toward the future. 

In recent years, the city has tackled projects that align with its mission of fostering a high quality of life for all residents and set the city up for continued success. At the Feb. 27 Reedley City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Paul Melikian shared the progress city staff have made in these efforts and spoke about projects that will need to be addressed in the near future.

One such project that the city council may see within the next few years is the decommissioning of the city’s two downtown water towers. Although Melikian and the city council did not spend much time discussing the topic at the meeting, Melikian and Public Works Director Russ Robertson addressed it in more detail in an interview with the Mid Valley Times. 

“Decommissioning does not mean removing or taking down the water towers, it just simply means we’re going to take it out of our water system to where we will not have water in the towers anymore,” Robertson said. 

The water towers that have stood in Reedley’s skyline for over a century are costly to maintain and are not as central to Reedley’s water system as they once were. 

When the towers were built — one in 1914 and one in 1923 — the 60,000 gallons of water each tank holds was helpful to maintaining the residential water supply. When the water tower by the Reedley Sports Park was built in 2012, its capacity of 1.5 million gallons rendered the downtown towers obsolete, Melikian said. 

To ensure that the city’s water supply is safe for residents, the state requires the city to complete a full inspection of the interiors of the water tower tanks every five years. This involves thoroughly inspecting the coating on the inside of the tanks to check for any spots that are chipping off and entering the water. 

Robertson said that to do the inspection, the city would previously have to hire divers to go down into the tanks. Now, a remote vehicle does the basic inspection, but if it finds something of concern, divers still have to go into the tanks and take pictures. The last inspection cost about $25,000 per tank. 

“Then, if it fails inspection for any reason, the cost of coating the interior of the towers is very substantial and can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Robertson said. 

By taking the water towers out of service, the city will be able to save the money used for inspections and other maintenance, and the water towers will remain standing for all Reedley residents to admire. 

This project is still a year or two away from being started, but Robertson said it was mentioned during the presentation to the city council so council members are aware of the city’s intentions when the project comes up in future budgets. 

When the water towers are taken out of service, Robertson said the public likely will not notice anything is different at all — except for that in the summertime, it will no longer appear as though the water towers are “leaking” as some residents may have seen. 

The downtown water towers were built with a pressure release tank that helps the city regulate the pressure in the water pipes when there are sharp increases and decreases in demand. The tanks have a system in place where pressure is released from the top of the water towers, which occasionally leads to water coming out of the towers, giving the appearance of a leak. 

Reedley will need to install a ground-mounted pressure release tank before the water towers can be taken out of service to compensate for the loss of the pressure release system in the water towers. 

Robertson said the cost of installing the ground-mounted pressure release tank is about the same as an inspection of just one of the water towers, so the city is “going to save substantial money in the future” after it installs the ground-mounted tank. 

Melikian emphasized that the city has no intention of removing the water towers from Reedley completely. The city used one-time American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in 2022 to repaint the outside of the towers so they would be preserved for years to come, Melikian said. 

The water towers are also important for local telecommunications, Melikian said. One tower services AT&T cellular customers and one services unWired Broadband internet customers in the area.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter