Dubai's Lost Water Towers

Prior to 1961, Dubai had no clean fresh water supply. Its people relied on communal water wells and pools, occasionally replenished by rain, for their water. Consequently Typhoid, Cholera and Yellow Fever outbreaks were common. Discovery of fresh water sources at Al Awir in early 1960s by Dubai's Water Engineer, Eric Tulloch, led to a modern fresh water supply system for Dubai. This radically improved both Dubai's living conditions and reduced health risks. Water Towers played a key role in Dubai's Fresh Water Supply system.

What did Dubai's Water Towers do?

Fresh water sources were found in Al Awir in 1961. A pipeline was laid ACROSS the desert from Al Awir to Khor Dubai to bring fresh water to Dubai. Pumping stations FORCED the fresh water through the pipeline. Initially fresh water was distributed from Khor Dubai to Dubai and Deira by road trucks until a modern distribution system was designed and installed. Water Tanks both stored fresh water and generated the pressure needed to get fresh water to domestic outlets.

Water Pressure

Water has to be under pressure to make it flow through pipelines to an outlet such as a bath tap or shower. Pressure was achieved by placing water storage tanks on top of 20 metre high towers. Each tower had a pumping station to pump the water from Al Awir up into this high level tank. The 20 meter height of these tanks enabled fresh water to flow down into the domestic water distribution system. Water Towers were built at strategic locations throughout Dubai and Deira. These Water Tanks became a feature of Dubai's skyline during 1970s,80s and 90s.


Dubai Water Tower

Water Tanks

Built in UK by Braithwaites UK and imported as Kits to be assembled onsite. Each tank held around half a million litres of fresh water.

Dubai's Disappearing Water Tanks

Demand for fresh water grew as Dubai expanded. Awir Wells no longer had capacity to meet this ever growing demand for fresh water. Increasing demand also meant these Water Towers could no longer generate the water pressure needed to keep fresh water flowing from their tapsand showers. Increasingly people found they were unable to get fresh water in their homes and businesses. Desalination eventually became the primary source of Dubai's fresh water supply. Elaborate pumping systems and high level storage tanks were no longer required. Water Towers became redundant in the 1990s, were dismantled and disappeared from Dubai's skyline.