Clio Logo
The two-million-gallon water tank at the top of Boulder City's tank hill was one of the first major infrastructure projects for the town that built Boulder Dam. The Bureau of Reclamation announced the water tank project with the first construction contract for Boulder City in November 1930. The tank was designed to store water pumped six miles from the Colorado River to the nearby water filtration plant at Railroad Avenue, to serve the brand new town being established on the federal government reservation. Water Tank Hill is an iconic part of the historic landscape of Boulder City.

  • View from the west of the two-million-gallon water tank on Water Tank Hill and the nearby water filtration plant. (National Archives and Records Administration. Major units of Boulder City water supply. July 10, 1932)
  • The Lacy Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles constructed the water tank for Boulder City in 1931. The company incorporated in 1898. (Photograph of Lacy Manufacturing Company circa 1920, Los Angeles Public Library)
  • An image of Water Tank Hill, circa 1932, from the feature "Boulder City - A Man Made Oasis in the Destert". (Photograph, Union Pacific Railroad)
  • An early advertisement for the Lacy Manufacturing Company, noting their specialty in oil, water and wagon tanks. (California Citrograph, Volume 6, 1921)
"Boulder City: A Man Made Desert Oasis", a 1932 news feature, described the new labor camp town of Boulder City as "a thriving, hustling community laid out in a triangle with its apex pointing toward a 2,000,000 gallon water tank that has been built on top of a hill overlooking the city." The town design included government engineers' homes at the base of Tank Hill, the Bureau of Reclamation administration building, and a grand park named after Ray Wilbur, Secretary of the Interior. 

The contract for the water tank was let by the Bureau of Reclamation on December 10, 1930. The specifications called for a tank 100-feet in diameter and 35-feet high. The Reno Gazette Journal marveled the tank was "almost the same size as the Las Vegas Land and Water Company's concrete reservoir which holds two million gallons." The Bureau noted the tank construction would require 2800 yards of excavation and 30 yards of concrete.

The water tank was needed to serve the hundreds of families arriving as part of the Boulder Dam Project. It would store Colorado River water pumped 2000 feet up the hill to Boulder City.  Water was conveyed to a settling basin, then into the filter beds of the water filtration plant on Railroad Avenue, then to the water tank on Tank Hill. 

Lifting the silty Colorado River water to Boulder City required electricity and a lot of horsepower. Water was pumped out of the River approximately 3500-feet below the Boulder Dam site. From there, three thirty-horsepower pumps moved the water to a settling tank. After that, three two-hundred horsepower booster pumps moved the water 1200-feet up the canyon. To keep water moving up the hill to Boulder City, three more two-hundred horsepower pumps were added to convey it to the basin at the water filtration plant. Once in Boulder City, three more thirty horsepower pumps moved the water through the treatment process, filtering out the Colorado River silt, softening and chlorinating the water, before sending it up to Water Tank Hill.

Since the water tank was the first significant project for Boulder City, the Bureau of Reclamation's Denver, Colorado office took the lead on the water tank contract and purchase, while the majority of other contracts for the Boulder Dam Project were let locally in Nevada. The Bureau set strict deadlines for the water system construction with daily financial penalties. The water tank, water pumps, and miles of water pipes were manufactured by companies based in Los Angeles. The water tank itself was produced by the Lacy Manufacturing Company, which had incorporated in the late 19th Century in Los Angeles to manufacture pipes and tanks needed for the booming agriculture and oil industries.

The water tank, as the first Bureau of Reclamation project in Boulder City's triangular design, is a fitting symbol for a town created to harness the Colorado River's water and power. Water Tank Hill has been an iconic part of the historic landscape for every generation of residents in Boulder City since 1931.

"Boulder City Contract Let." Reno Gazette Journal(Reno)November 26, 1930. .

"Water System Being Pressed." Reno Gazette Journal(Reno)April 30, 1931. .

Beaman, Julian A.. "Boulder City - A Man Made Desert Oasis." . .

"Advertisement." Lacy Manufacturing Co.; California Citrograph, Volume 6, 1921.

"Cramton arrives at Las Vegas today." Reno Gazette Journal(Reno)April 09, 1931. , 5-5.