Newton, Kan.'s blue sky water tank earned Tank of the Year for 2010. A panel of water tank enthusiasts measured nominations based on several criteria including artistic value, significance of the tank to the surrounding community, and challenges encountered during the project. Photo: Tnemec Inc.

By Jenni Spinner

Newton, Kan., residents enjoy blue skies every day of the year, which is why the city's motif of sky and pillowy clouds can be found everywhere — including its now-award-winning water tower.

The city has been tapped as Tank of the Year for 2010 in a contest sponsored by coatings firm Tnemec Inc. The contest recognizes water towers that utilize the company's coating products for their design, and the stories behind them. In the case of Newton's treasured tower, the design mirrors that of a beloved public landmark.

“It mimics Newton's Blue Sky Sculpture, which was named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas Art in 2008,” says Erin McDaniel, public information officer for the city. “Both the sculpture and artwork for the water tank were created by Kansas artist and designer Phil Epp, who is known for his rural landscapes with expansive skies.”

The water tower, like its namesake sculpture, features Epp's signature white clouds, set against an azure sky. Visitors standing at the sculpture can clearly see the water tower nearby.

“The arched surfaces of the sculpture and the curvature of the tank mural viewed against the surrounding sky create an interesting aesthetic effect that definitely impressed our Tank of the Year judges,” says Doug Hansen, Tnemec's director of sales, Water Tank Market.

The tower's vibrant colors come courtesy of a number of exterior coating products by Tnemec, including Series 700 HydroFlon, a fluoropolymer topcoat.

“HydroFlon was specified to ensure an extremely long-lasting coating system,” says Penner, coating consultant with Tnemec. “When you have a decorative tank like this, you want it to last as long as possible.”

This year, Tnemec's contest received approximately 150 entries. Newton came out on top, receiving a trophy and landing the front of Tnemec's annual Tank of the Year pictorial calendar; the top finalists will be featured in the later months.

“The city is honored to receive this award,” says Willis Heck, Newton city commissioner. “We're lucky to have the talents of Phil Epp in Newton, and Blue Sky has become an icon of our community. We hope our water tower design sends the message that Newton is a progressive, creative, first-class community.”

— Jenni Spinner ( is a Chicago-based freelance writer and a former editor of PUBLIC WORKS.


To see a video promoting previous Tank of the Year winners, click here.


Tnemec Inc. is accepting entries for the 2011 Tank of the Year contest. To land the necessary nomination forms, e-mail a request to with “Tank of the Year” in the subject line, or visit New construction and renovation projects of any tank style are eligible; nomination forms must be accompanied by a photo or photos of the tank. Deadline is Oct. 3.