The water that is “stored” in the tank is like the savings in a bank account. It is there for the times that current demand exceeds current pumping capacity and when needed for firefighting purposes. When there is no storage capacity (e.g., savings), pumps have to work nonstop to provide water into the tanks as fast as demand draws it out. Further, the volume of water needed to fight a fire, on top of daily water usage, is significant and can only come from storage. When a fire occurs on a day of peak demand, when water users are drawing water out as fast as it is pumped into the tanks, water to fight the fire must come from water stored in the tank. The requirement that water for firefighting come from water stored in the tank is a standard condition of water engineering, in addition to being required by the State and the Insurance Services Office that sets the Town’s insurance rates.
If water in the tanks is flowing out faster than it is pumped in, the level of water in the tanks will drop. During the drought of 2016, there were only 30 inches of water left in the bottom of the Paines Hill tank. This would not have been enough to fight a fire if one had occurred in that moment. We were lucky to avoid a disaster. It was our wake-up call to address the system’s deficiency.
The storage capacity of the tank is directly related to the height of the water tank and the height of the buildings that it serves. If buildings are located as high as, or higher than the tank, the water level in the tank must remain as high as possible to maintain the proper pressure.
In technical terms, the lack of active storage in the system is directly related to the maximum serviceable grade line (or elevation) at which the system can provide customers with a reliable minimum pressure. As discussed in detail in Section 5 of the Plan, Weston has a significant deficit of active storage, or usable water volume, beyond daily needs. The active storage is based on the operational range of the tank and the service elevations of the system’s customers; it is not the same as the total volume of water in the tank. Under current conditions, in order to maintain service to higher elevations, the pumps run continuously during times of high demand to keep the tanks as full as possible.
Water tank height is what provides water pressure. More height is needed to serve customers close to the tanks, who currently have inadequate pressure.