Water Storage Tanks

A water storage tank holds clean water from your reverse osmosis system or other filter systems until you're ready to use it. Pressurized storage tanks force water out on demand, while atmospheric tanks require a booster pump to supply pressure. Water storage tanks exist in a vast array of sizes, designs, and specifications, and can be used residentially, commercially, and for large-scale industrial or municipal enterprises. 


What is a water storage tank? 

A water storage tank collects water and stores it for later use and timely access. When you turn on your kitchen faucet, water is carried from the tank to your tap, providing you with fresh water on demand. Reverse osmosis systems work slowly, purifying water one drop at a time. A reverse osmosis storage tank ensures you can access this water whenever you need, without waiting for the system to painstakingly fill up your glass. Many wells are low-pressure and low-recovery and are tasked with providing pressurized water throughout a household or business. A well pressure tank ensures that when you turn your shower on or flush your toilet, you have immediate access to pressurized water. They also help extend the life of the well pump by protecting the pump from short-cycling.   


Water storage tanks come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations, and are used for a variety of purposes across the water treatment industry. From a small, 5-gallon reverse osmosis tank stored neatly under your sink to a towering 120-gallon well pressure tank, water storage tanks are an integral part of many household water systems. Large, outdoor atmospheric tanks can store thousands of gallons of rainwater, well water, or be used for fire suppression. These tanks are usually equipped with UV inhibitors, preventing sunlight from facilitating algae and bacterial growth within the tank. Thermal expansion tanks prevent water heaters on closed water supplies from leaking and bursting.        


How does a water storage tank work? 

A water storage tank holds clean water from your reverse osmosis system until a demand for water is initiated in the house or business. Water is pumped into the tank from the water source, like a well or a reverse osmosis system. The tank accumulates water until it is full. When you need access to water, be it to fill your glass up with crystal clear water, run a bath, or irrigate a field, the storage tank provides you with instantaneous access to water. 


Water storage tanks are generally either pressure tanks or atmospheric tanks. Point-of-use applications, like reverse osmosis storage tanks, usually implement pressure tanks. Outdoor applications or large scale municipal water storage operations usually use atmospheric tanks.


How do pressure tanks work? 

Pressure tanks use compressed air to create water pressure within the tank. A pressure tank is constructed with an air chamber or bladder and comes with a pressure pre-charge. As the tank fills up with water, the weight of the water will begin to compress the air. As the air continues to compress, the pressure within the tank builds. When the tank reaches a certain internal pressure, it signals to the feed source to cease delivery. When you open a faucet in your kitchen, the air pressure bears down on the water as it is released from the tank, propelling pressurized water through your pipes and out of your kitchen sink. When water exits the tank, the air will start to expand again, reducing the tank pressure, and signaling to the water source to recommence delivery. If the pressure tank is being used to store well water, this means the tank will signal the well pump to turn back on. If the storage tank is collecting RO water, lowering pressure will signal the reverse osmosis system to restart production. These tanks are known as hydropneumatic tanks because they use the combined power of water and air to generate pressure within a tank.  


Pressure tanks allow for pressurization without the aid of pumps. Since air will compress and water will not, the air within the tank will organically increase the pressure of the water as the tank fills up. There are also pressure tanks that do not rely on hydropneumatic pressure. These are known as constant pressure tanks. Constant pressure tanks provide city-like water pressure at all times, regardless of how many appliances are demanding water. A hydropneumatic tank can become overwhelmed if too much water is being drawn from it and sent to multiple sources concurrently (for example, if the shower is running at the same time as the dishwasher.) This results in a loss of pressure throughout the home. Constant pressure tanks use a sensor to monitor water pressure and keep the water in the tank at a stable, consistent pressure. 


How do atmospheric tanks work?

Atmospheric tanks do not contain air bladders or diaphragms to pressurize the water within their reservoirs. Instead, atmospheric tanks hold water at ambient pressure. Ambient pressure is simply the pre-existing pressure corresponding with wherever the tank is located (usually about 0.5psi). There is no pressure exerted on the water within the tank. Atmospheric tanks can also be used to house liquids like crude oil, and some are capable of housing chemicals and acids. For example, the underground storage tanks at gas stations hold the gasoline at atmospheric pressure. 


To draw water out of an atmospheric storage tank, you will need a water booster pump to move the water out of the tank and throughout the house. Since the water in these tanks does not have any pressure exerted upon it, you will need the assistance of a pump or gravity to move water out of the tank and through your pipes. UV-stabilized atmospheric tanks are commonly used in outdoor applications, like rainwater collection, or for agricultural purposes, like fertilizer storage. They can also be used for water distribution, transporting wastewater, or commercial chemical storage. Atmospheric tanks tend to be much larger than pressure tanks, holding thousands of gallons at a time. The ambient pressure and UV inhibitors of atmospheric tanks also lend them more weather resistance even under harsh conditions. 


Why are water storage tanks elevated? 

Atmospheric water storage tanks are elevated to assist them in generating water pressure. If a water storage tank is elevated high enough, gravity alone can trigger water pressure identical to that of large water booster pumps. For example, community water towers act on this principle. Water is pumped up into the water tower and then held until demand is initiated. When you turn on your faucet, the water tower is able to deliver your home high-pressure water because of its elevation. Water towers are usually around 165 feet tall. For each foot the water travels downward, it will take on about 0.43 psi of pressure, meaning water reaches your showerhead and kitchen tap between 50 and 100 psi. 


This is all achieved by gravity alone, meaning the city doesn’t have to pay for immense and expensive water pumps or the fuel to keep them running. This can also be mimicked residentially. Keeping an atmospheric tank away from your home and at an elevation can generate an increase in water pressure as the water is forced out of the storage tank.   


What are water storage tanks used for? 

Water storage tanks are used across a variety of applications where water needs to be stored for ready access. Household water storage, commercial food and beverage preparation, agriculture and irrigation, fire suppression, and industrial manufacturing all utilize water storage tanks to streamline water delivery. The size and specifications of the tank will vary based on the application the tank is being used for and the daily water demand of the home or business.   


Well pressure tanks

Well pressure tanks are used to maintain water pressure throughout households that rely on well water. Well pressure tanks also preserve the longevity of well pumps by protecting the from rapidly cycling on and off. When a pump is forced to turn on and off over and over again, undue duress is placed on the pump, causing it to prematurely fail. Well pressure tanks insulate the pump by providing a quantity of water for appliances to draw upon before asking the well pump to kick into action. This extends the time between pump cycles. When you turn on a faucet to quickly fill rinse off your hands, water from the pressure tank flow to the sink. The well pump isn’t forced to turn on and then shut off to complete such a brief task. When a pump is forced to turn on and off every time your home demands water, this is known as “short-cycling.” Short-cycling puts tremendous strain on your well pump, and with a well pressure tank, you will find yourself replacing pump after pump. 


Well pressure tanks also help maintain consistent water pressure throughout your house. These are hydropneumatic tanks, so, when you step into the shower you’re greeted with high-pressure water. The tanks air chamber compresses as water fills the storage tank and release pressurized water into your home when demanded.


Reverse osmosis tanks

Reverse osmosis storage tanks work on the same principle as well pressure tanks, but on a smaller scale. They are also hydropneumatic water storage tanks designed to provide pressurized water without the aid of a booster pump. They protect the reverse osmosis unit overall by ceasing water production when the tank capacity is full. Once the pressure tank’s psi reaches 2/3 of the water line pressure, the ASO valve will shut the system. This protects the RO membrane from being in constant use and prevents the system from perpetually sending wastewater to the drain. Reverse osmosis tanks are made of rolled steel, but internally lined with an inert material called butyl. This protects the purified water from making contact with any metallic surface. 


RO tanks come in a variety of sizes, but in general, they are designed to fit snugly beneath your kitchen counter alongside your reverse osmosis system. Reverse osmosis takes a long time to purify water, so RO storage tanks also act as simple collection chamber for the water so you can access it at your convenience. If you want to increase your reverse osmosis system’s tank capacity, the addition of a second tank will expand your water storage. You can also add an RO booster pump to the water’s feed pressure. The reverse osmosis system will stop producing water when the tank’s internal pressure reaches 2/3 of the line pressure. So, if you have low water pressure running through your reverse osmosis system to begin with, your tank will shut off much sooner. Increasing the feed pressure will actually increase how much water your storage tank can hold. Use a pressure gauge to monitor the air pressure within your RO tank. 


What size water storage tank do I need?

The size water storage appropriate for your home will depend on your water usage and the application. For example, if you are using a reverse osmosis storage tank to provide water throughout your home, estimate how much demand will be on that system and size accordingly based on RO output and storage. If your RO system is serving an office, consider what times of day the water demands are the highest. Fill the tank first thing in the morning so people will have fresh water to brew coffee or espresso, and make sure the tank is large enough to refill by lunch so people can fill up their glasses and water bottles. When sizing an RO tank, you want to make sure you have enough tank capacity to support the habits of everyone in the building. You can always increase the storage capacity and water pressure of the RO tank by connecting to a second tank. 


Sizing a well pressure tank is a more complex task because you need to account for more than just drinking water habits. You need to ensure there is enough water to support bathing and showering, flushing toilets, and running appliances like dishwashers. Some tank manufacturers recommended estimating your tank size by counting the number of water-using fixtures the tank will be servicing and multiplying that number by three. For example, if you have two showers, three toilets, five faucets, one dishwasher, one laundry machine, and a refrigerator, you’d have a total of thirteen appliances demanding water. Multiplied by 3, this means you’d want at least a 39-gallon tank to support the home. In reality, you cannot go wrong by purchasing a larger tank. Properly sized well tanks extend the life of the well pump by protecting the pump from cycling on and off too rapidly. 


Sizing a tank properly requires specific information about your home and water, including flow rates, tank drawdown capacity, pressure switch setting, and the minimum runtime of your pump. To explore more about tank sizing, learn how to size a well pressure tank. 


How do calculate water storage tank capacity? 

While many water storage tanks come with a stated gallon capacity on the label, this is not always the tank capacity of the water storage tank. If this is a pressure tank or a reverse osmosis tank, the tank comes equipped with a metal diaphragm and an air bladder. If the tank is a 32-gallon tank, that number is referring to the total void volume of the tank, if you were to completely remove the diaphragm and depressurize the tank. Tank capacity is the actual amount of water the tank is capable of holding. 


The tank capacity that is best suited for your needs will depend upon your individual home, office, or restaurant's needs. Water storage tanks are always sized based on demand. If you are a cafe supplying water from a reverse osmosis tank to several coffee makers, espresso machines, and ice makers, your tank capacity is going to differ dramatically from a family of two using an RO tank in their home. Finding a water storage tank that can supply you with water throughout the day with interruptions or reduced pressure indicates you have found the proper tank capacity for your needs. 


How do you install a water storage tank?

The installation process will differ depending on the application of the water storage tank. Reverse osmosis tanks are very simple to install, requiring only a piece of plastic tubing and a couple of plastic quick-connect fittings to connect your tank’s control valve to the air gap faucet.


Though installing a well storage tank system is more involved than an RO storage tank, it is not overly difficult or time-consuming task. A well tank installation will require several parts to ensure the system runs smoothly: 


Connect the tank to a water inlet from the well. You’ll need to make sure the pressure tank is connected to the water line running to the well. The well pump should be pumping water directly into the tank. Install fittings to route the plumbing from the well directly to the storage tank. 

Make sure a check valve is in place. Check valves allow water to flow in only one direction. A check valve will let the well pump push water into the tank, and prevent it from flowing back out of the tank and down into the well once the pump has turned off. 

Install a pressure relief valve. Pressure relief valves are designed to open when a specified pressure is reached and allow water to flow through until the pressure drops to the desired level. These prevent excessive pressure build-up that could cause the storage tanks to exceed their design limits

Ensure the tank is connected to a boiler drain. In the event that you need to drain the entire tank, a boiler drain will allow you to quickly and efficiently do so. Rather than turning off the well pump and running your faucet until the tank empties out, boiler drains will release all the water with the turn of a knob. 

Attach a pressure switch. Pressure switches tell the well pump when to turn on and off based on the pressure building within the tank. Without this, the pump will not know when to stop delivering water to the tank. For example, a 40/60 pressure switch will allow water to drain out of the tank until the internal pressure reaches 40psi. This then tells the well pump to activate and start pumping water. The well pump will continue to fill the tank until the tank reaches 60psi, at which point the pump will turn off until the next pressure drop.

All of these components can be easily purchased and installed together as one unit called a tank fittings package. You can select your desired pressure switch settings, and get all the required fittings in one convenient package.