A View From the Top: A Water Tower Inspector Shares Her Sights

October 18, 2017

To some, climbing to the top of a water tower would be a harrowing experience. But for Jana Nyhagen, it’s all (a thrilling) part of the job.

Jana Nyhagen

Meet Jana

I eagerly started climbing water towers in 2013. Since then, I’ve climbed too many to count. As part of my job as a drinking water engineer, NACE certified coatings inspector and water tank maintenance services operations manager, I get to see some amazing sites and I’m constantly looking for a photo opportunity when I climb. I’m always concentrating on staying safe and documenting the towers’ conditions, but when a great view presents itself, I make sure to document it. Take a look at some of my most memorable water tower inspection adventures. I hope you enjoy them!  

 
Melrose, Minnesota

Melrose, Minnesota

Climbing in the fall gives the best views! On a calm day in Melrose I captured quiet reflections of autumn colors on Juergens Lake, on a portion of the Sauk River.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Not all tanks are visible to the general public, including this buried 3.2-million-gallon tank that was constructed in 1925. Two of the men that helped build the tank left their mark in the concrete at the base of two of 21 columns inside of the tank. It is amazing to think that my great-grandparents’ generation built this tank that is still in service today.

Montello, Wisconsin
Montello, Wisconsin

Montello, Wisconsin

This little gem of a community has beautiful views from the water tower and beautiful views of the water tower! The nearby land was once a quarry and is now a park. The community is also surrounded with bodies of water that make it a beautiful destination.  

Hammond, Wisconsin

Hammond, Wisconsin

On a clear day, the view from a water tower can go on for miles and miles. This photo was taken in the general direction of my home and displays the farmland, forests and blue sky that I like to call home.

Bayport, Minnesota

Bayport, Minnesota

After traveling across the historic Stillwater Bridge on the last day it was open to vehicle traffic between Minnesota and Wisconsin, I found myself atop the Bayport reservoir. From the reservoir, I realized I had a view of the new bridge, so I snapped a few photos. SEH played a role in the overall river crossing project, and until now, the only view I had of the new bridge was while crossing the old lift bridge. The final product was neat to see from a higher perspective.

Virginia, Minnesota

Virginia, Minnesota

This water tower is located just off the green of the local golf course — I even found a golf ball on the roof last year! The mature pines lining the fairways transition into green forests at the edge of the Iron Range.  Wind turbines dot the horizon making for a mesmerizing experience.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

The bird in this photo perched straight above my head for a moment, and by the time I got the camera ready, it noticed it had company and flew off.  

Brainerd, Minnesota

Brainerd, Minnesota

Sometimes the best image captured during an inspection isn’t from the top of the water tower. On a rainy day in Brainerd, I happened upon a reflection of the water tower in a nearby puddle. After the rain passed, a clear sky followed allowing for this reflection of the water tower to be captured.

This is also a unique water tower because there are stairs that require your back to be turned to the water tower while transitioning from the leg ladder to the catwalk. It is a neat feeling to walk up the stairs with nothing but air between you and the ground.

Little Canada, Minnesota

Little Canada, Minnesota

In the land of 10,000 lakes, several of the water towers have beautiful views of lakes. The blue sky and sunshine only enhances the view.  

Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Again, it pays to look down as well as up when inspecting water towers. This adorable bunny was burrowed down in the grass with a few siblings. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a photo!

Redgranite Wisconsin

Redgranite – Wisconsin

During this inspection, the blue sky paired beautifully with the green trees that go on and on. On top of a tank without a guardrail, it is easy to feel one with your surroundings.

Willmar, Minnesota

Willmar, Minnesota

I needed to watch my step during this inspection! The cage on the ladder was bent up at the base to make just enough space for a family of birds. This water tower also happened to have a bird painted on it.  Apparently, this family took that as an invitation!  

Berlin, Wisconsin

Berlin, Wisconsin

The Berlin water tower is very tall, about 180 feet, and it is located near the wastewater treatment plant. Using the fish-eye setting on the camera, I was able to capture a unique view of the wastewater treatment plant on a sunny day. Wastewater treatment plants include many treatment steps, and only a view from up high can capture these steps in one photo.

Bringing it together

Although climbing to the top of a water tower might not be everyone’s example of a good time, to Jana Nyhagen, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I love having the opportunity to climb our clients’ water tanks, especially when a client is willing to climb with me. I can teach them how to safely enjoy the experience and what to look for to make sure the water supply is protected. They can teach me about where they live and work, pointing out landmarks in their community. This elevated adventure with a beautiful view of our world is best when shared.”

About the Expert

“Jana

Jana Nyhagen is an SEH water engineer and tank inspector dedicated to the health of communities’ water supplies — while taking in the beauty all around her. Follow her on LinkedIn to see more adventures.
Contact Jana

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