“The approximate head of water available on the site is 100 ft. Local storage of water will be needed in each block of flats calculated on the basis of 50 gallons per day.”

Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Architects “Barbican Redevelopment” April 1959

Mains water

Mains water is supplied to flats by a pipe called a vertical riser. This generally connects to the flat’s system in the kitchen area only.

Only water supplied direct from the mains by a vertical riser is officially safe to drink – which means that only the kitchen cold water tap should be used for drinking water.

The approximate head of water available on the site is 100 feet. (‘Head of water’ means the height water will reach by water pressure alone.) Above 100 feet, mains water is supplied via a pumped or ‘boosted’ main.

Water usage of individual flats is not metered. So you will be paying a fixed water rate to the supply company.

Stored water

Storage tanks in each block provide flats with water for bathrooms, toilets and hot water supplies. Enough water is stored in each building to supply 50 gallons to every flat. It is not drinking water – it’s been hanging around for a while – so if you wake up with a thirst in the middle of the night, don’t use the bathroom tap, go to the kitchen (which has mains water).

In tower blocks, 10,000 gallons of water are stored in the basement. Pumping equipment raises it to subsidiary storage tanks on some floors. From there, it falls by gravity to flats below, when a tap is turned on. In terrace blocks, the water is stored on the roof.


There’s a stopcock underneath the kitchen sink. Turning it off cuts the supply to the cold water tap and to the kitchen water heater.

The stopcocks in the bathroom are behind a removable panel behind the toilet pan. These control the hot and cold tap water in the bathroom and the toilet. Turning the cold stopcock, shuts off all cold water including the flushing toilet cistern.

If you have the original toilet, you can open the hinged access panel to stopcocks in the toilet by using a coin to turn the two slotted head fasteners approximately a half turn anti-clockwise. To lock the cover shut, press the two fasteners and turn clockwise.

The stopcocks controlling other services, or for the flat as a whole, may be in ducts to which the resident has no access. lf you need access to these services, the Barbican Estate Office should be contacted.