The Horton Water Spheroid was built in 1957 by the Horton Steel Co. to provide water and pressure in fast-growing Red Deer. Affectionately known as the Green Onion, it was the largest water spheroid in the world at the time and holds nearly 2.3 million litres of water. (Advocate file photo).

The Horton Water Spheroid was built in 1957 by the Horton Steel Co. to provide water and pressure in fast-growing Red Deer. Affectionately known as the Green Onion, it was the largest water spheroid in the world at the time and holds nearly 2.3 million litres of water. (Advocate file photo).

Aging reservoir under Red Deer’s water tower is getting $3.5 million in repairs

It’s one of five vast water storage tanks built beneath the city

Repairs of a vast, underground reservoir that lies at the roots of Red Deer’s ‘Green Onion’ water tower are now underway and are expected to take until spring.

Tom Marstaller, environmental planning superintendent for the City of Red Deer, said a construction firm was hired to do $3.5 million of proactive repairs on the water reservoir that lies under Mountview hill.

A 2021 inspection of the Mountview tank showed it was due for some maintenance upgrades, and Marstaller believes the work will take until April to complete.

The 50-plus-year-old tank usually holds more H2O than can fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools (10,500 cu. metres). But it’s been emptied so maintenance work can be done on concrete that was starting to deteriorate, Marstaller added.

Since some stored water is needed for fire hydrants and other emergency uses in case of an unexpected shutdown of the water treatment system, Marstaller said the Mountview reservoir is actually one of five large tanks that lie beneath the city.

While the Mountview tank remains temporarily out of commission, the city can always rely on water stored in similar-sized reservoirs beneath Queen’s Park, Lancaster Green, Glendale and downtown (in a reservoir named Bellevue, next to the city’s water treatment system).

One of very few bulbous water towers that still loom over a Canadian city stands over the Mountview reservoir. Since being built in 1957 by Horton Steel Co., the so-called ‘Green Onion’ is one of the more recognizable features of Red Deer’s skyline.

Red Deer’s unusually shaped water tower, with a flared bottom (instead of outward steel legs), was the largest spheroid-shaped reservoir in the world when created 65 years ago.

It required 240 tonnes of steel to build, and cost $275,000, with a capacity of holding 500,000 imperial gallons.

Today, the 40.2 metre steel tower, with its 18.9 meter upper ball, is no longer holding water. Marstaller said the tower once created enough pressure to get water up into higher parts of the city, but now mechanical water pumps perform this function.

The Horton Water Spheroid’s only purpose — besides being an eye-catching landmark — is to hold an aerial that provides a signal for the city’s in-house walkie-talkie communications system, he added.

While a lot of water towers can still be seen in the U.S., they are now rare in Canadian cities.

However, Red Deer’s has some protected status. With its height and unusual form, Red Deer’s Horton Water Spheroid is considered an important local heritage site that’s listed in the City of Red Deer’s Land Use Bylaw as a historically significant resource.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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The Horton Water Spheroid’s only purpose — besides being an eye-catching landmark — is to hold an aerial that provides a signal for the city’s in-house walkie-talkie communications system. (Advocate file photo)

The Horton Water Spheroid’s only purpose — besides being an eye-catching landmark — is to hold an aerial that provides a signal for the city’s in-house walkie-talkie communications system. (Advocate file photo)