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World’s Tallest Water Sphere – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is a water sphere?
A water sphere is a tower designed to hold water. It looks like a golf ball sitting on a tee. Water spheres use height and gravity to create water pressure for a water distribution system. A spherical top helps put a large mass of water at a high point, which is important for maintaining water pressure in tall buildings. A spherical shape is simple to design, construct, and helps resist asymetrical pressures (such as wind, rain, or gravity) in vertical or horizontal directions.

Q: Where is the Union water sphere?
The water sphere is located in Union near the intersection of the Garden State Parkway and Morris Avenue. Route 22, Interstate 78, and other roads also pass within viewing disptance. The latitude and longitude are north 40.693274, west 74.262046 Here is a Google Map link.

Q: Where are the best vantage points for observing the Union water sphere?
View from David Terrace near Kawameeh Park to see northern skies. View from Ingersoll Terrace to look southward. There are also nice views along Morris Avenue and some great wild life views along a path from Morris Avenue near the Suburban Golf Course entrance towards the Kahwamee Junior High School. Look westward from airplanes landing at Newark Liberty International Airport. View from gondola of zeppelin to see top view of tower.

For all visitors, please respect private property rights and the community owned property rights around the water tower. Do not cross fence lines. Do not vandalize or tag structures. Do not litter. Do not destroy or antagonize wildlife around the site. If you see litter or debris, please help remove it and leave the site in a better state than that you found it in.

Q: What are the Union water sphere dimensions?
The main tower is 212 feet (~65 m) tall and holds 250,000 gallons (946,353 liters) of liquid.

In 2008, a red stroboscopic beacon was constructed atop the tower. The beacon adds at least 6 feet to the tower, equaling and perhaps exceeding other towers including the Edmunds Oklahoma tower.

Q: When was the Union water sphere built?
The tower was built in 1964.

Q: Who designed and built the Union water sphere?
Chicago Bridge and Iron built the water sphere. Armand Fiorletti of Linden worked on the tower and has stated “I am still proud of the fact that I helped build it, and when I pass it with someone I tell them, ‘I helped build that.’”

Q: Who owns the Union water sphere?
Elizabethtown Water and Gas was the original owner. The company was purchased by the New Jersey American Water Company, which was later purchased by American Water Company, who are the current owners.

Q: How often do they paint and maintain the Union water sphere?
The tower is painted every 20 years or so. The tower is drained and inspected every other year. Since the site is a functioning water treatment plant, maintenance crews visit the site frequently. Recent expeditions to the site reveal new fences, trimmed trees and plants, and recent maintenance, showing that the WTWS is well loved and cared for despite difficult economic conditions.

Q: Water sphere or Watersphere? One word or two?
Either is correct. Which style do you want to use? This site uses the older, more common water sphere (two word) form. Hence the abbreviation WTWS. As ideas and phrases become more common, the English and German languages tend to hyphenate, and then merge words in singular forms. Hence electronic mail, then e-mail, now email. Similarly park way, park-way, parkway. Since many people do not yet know the concept of the World’s Tallest Water Sphere, we use separate words.

Contrary to the grammatical viewpoint, the historic Elizabethtown Water Company billboard uses the single word “WORLD’S TALLEST WATERSPHERE.” So if you are kicking it old-school and like history, use one word.

Q: How many people view the Union water sphere daily?
Total: 1.2 million

  • Garden State Parkway drivers: 750 thousand daily
  • Route 22 drivers: 200 thousand daily
  • Morris Avenue (Route 82) drivers: 50 thousand daily
  • Interstate 78 drivers: 50 thousand daily
  • Newark Liberty International Airport airplane passengers: 50 thousand daily
  • Local traffic drivers: 50 thousand daily
  • Foot traffic, businesses, and school viewers: 50 thousand daily

Note: These traffic figures are estimates but the proportions likely are accurate. Figures will be updated as they become available.

Q: WTWS, a force for evil or good?
Although many report the WTWS as a evil, malevolent, or terrifying image, we believe the tower is a force for good. It provides Union with reliable water pressure. It provides a positive waypoint for auto or airplane travelers. And it emits low-frequency vibrations forcing all Unionites to obey its commands.

Q: Where is the World’s Tallest Water Sphere Museum?
It is located on the northwest side of Austin, Texas. Museum exhibits, photographs, models, and guided tours are available by appointment. Exhibits are available for loan for noteworthy projects.

Q: Which well-known New Jersey people may have witnessed the World’s Tallest Water Sphere?

Count Basie, Jon Bon Jovi, Danny Devito, Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, Ray Liotta, Shaquille O’Neal, Frank Sinatra, Mira Sorvino, Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep, John Travolta, Zakk Wylde. These famous New Jerseyans have likely seen the WTWS and can probably attest to the quality of northern New Jersey’s municipal water supply.

Several famous Union expatriates have moved from Union to Austin including Texas’ first interim president David Burnet (namesake of Union’s Burnet Junior High School and Burnet Road) and Dan Becker (curator of the WTWS Museum in Austin).

Q: Who runs the WTWS web site?
This site is a private enterprise for public philanthropy, run by Dan Becker.

Q: How can I help spread the word?
Contribute your photos, news, artwork, and personal recollections to the Webmaster.

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