Gold standard for utility performance

Water supply systems of the settlements are made up of pump stations serving the quantity and pressure needs of the city, catchment objects (wells, springs, surface water abstraction from rivers or lakes, and connection to the regional system), public networks (which the consumers can connect to) and storages. Storages bridge the time difference between production and consumption. These may be reservoirs – if the height of the terrain is appropriate – or water towers on the plains and highest points of hilly areas.

After the “golden age”

In the area of Budapest there are a number of water towers which played or currently play an important role in the water supply of the city.

The former suburbs and villages had their own waterworks and water towers. During the unification in 1950, the Budapest Waterworks took over these waterworks and towers, consolidated and developed the network and, as a result, some water tower became redundant. The tower in Rákoscsaba, the two Corvin towers in Mátyásföld, and the towers in Budafok, Stefánia Street, and Rákoscsaba were demolished.

Story of the strange last moments

In the area of the plant in Kőbánya, an expansion of the capacity of the reservoirs was planned. There was enough available space for this, but there loomed the water tower built in 1903 and became increasingly redundant. Decision was made to demolish it. The company which carried out the work installed the cartridges necessary for the blasting and they prepared to carry out this rare spectacular event in front of invited guests. The end of the year, Christmas season leaves and the mandatory plan-performance were approaching, therefore, the day of the explosion was set for 22 December 1968. On that day, the fog was so thick that although the explosion was successfully carried out, the guests could only hear it, but could not see a thing.

Exchange of roles

The water tower which belonged to the former Belgian Ister Waterworks in Újpest was converted to store industrial water (not suitable for human consumption). The “Chinoin tower” in Nagytétény also stores industrial water. Although not part of the water supply system anymore, but the tower in Kispest still stands (it serves as a storage), just as the one in Mátyásföld (apartments were built around it), another one by the Népliget (operates as a staircase), and the Rákoshegyi tower (it is a lookout now, but its state is not too good).

Reinforced concrete towers

In Hungary, reinforced concrete has been in use since 1880. After the World Exhibition in Paris 1900, engineering professor Dr. Szilárd Zielinski (1860-1924), as the representative of the Hennebique patents in Hungary, played a significant role in the spreading of the technology. Soon he won the confidence of the Hungarian Society of Engineers and Architects for the reinforced concrete structures. After the turn of the century, water towers was built one after the other, such as the – above mentioned – water tower in Kőbánya (1902-1903), in Szeged (1904), on the Margaret Island (1911), and on the Szabadság Hill (1912) all designed by him.

Margaret Island Water Tower

Margaret Island was declared a public garden under the act of XLVIII of 1908, and became the property of Budapest Public Works Council. To maintain the 96.5 hectare park, a significant amount of irrigation water was needed, therefore, wells, pump houses, network and a water tower were built on this favourable area. The ground plan of the tower is octagonal, it is a symmetrical structure with a height of 55 metre.

Reinforced concrete pillars are the main support of the structure and a 600 m3 reinforced water tank weighs heavily on it 40 m above the ground. The tower stands on a grooved reinforced concrete plate. The water supply system operated independently from the city’s system, until Budapest Waterworks took it over in 1950. After recognising the Island’s excellent capabilities, additional wells were built and the excess water was forwarded in the network through the Margaret Bridge. This sealed the fate of the tower, because the increased network pressure exceeded the 40 m height of the tower. The tower is an industrial monument today, it is an integral part of the cityscape of Budapest and the symbol of the Budapest Waterworks.

Water tower renaissance

New water towers were also built, namely in Csepel and Kispest to supply the ten-story high houses in the housing estates. The two towers were built according to the same plan, trunks were fitted with sliding shutter procedure and the bowls with prefabricated remaining blinds. The bowls were made on ground level then lifted up in the air with a hydraulic structure and fixed up there. The towers are 60 metre high and the capacity of their bowls is 3,000 m3. For the supply of the housing estates in Újpalota, a 2 × 300 m3 capacity steel reservoir was built on the top of the high rise right next to the pump house, although later this tower had been removed from the system and switched to rev-control operation.

Two 30 m3 reservoirs were built on the top of two buildings in Fejér Lipót Street in Kelenföld also to supply the housing estates. Today, they are no longer in use, unlike the 200 m3 reinforced concrete water tower in the Eötwös road on the Szabadság Hill which was also designed according to the plans of dr. Szilárd Zielinski in 1912. The tower is filled – today automatically – by the pump house in Diana Street. A pressure booster operates on the ground floor of the tower which elevates the water up to the János Hill lookout.

Last but not least, two steel water tanks were built on the Szentendre Island to supply the Horányliget and the Surányliget resort areas.

Budapest’s latest water tower, the Budafok water tower

In order to meet the ever increasing water demand of Budafok and its surroundings, a 3,000 m3 water tower was built on the Nagytétény plateau on behalf of the Budapest Waterworks. No similar works have been done for over 30 years.

Geographical conditions of Budafok made the construction necessary. On the one hand, more and more people move into the area every year, and due to the real estate investments in the near future we can expect further significant increase in the population growth, and thus the water demand will also increase. On the other hand, the settlement is located in such high-altitude area that its stabile and uninterrupted water supply can only be ensured by a suitable water storage which provides the necessary back-pressure.
The water tower built on the Kamaraerdő plateau can hold up to 3 million litres of water, it is 42 metre high and has a 700 meter long supply and drain line.
The water tower with its asymmetric shape, elegant and dynamic architectural solutions, and with its environmentally adaptive appearance is unique even globally and continues the best traditions of Budapest’s water tower architecture.

Due to the water tower in Budafok, the smooth and uninterrupted water supply is guaranteed now in the area, which means a noticeable quality improvement in nearly one third of the households in Budafok.