Water Tank Mixing 101: Why Mix? & How Do You Choose?

Posted by Christine Gunsaullus on Monday, March 13, 2017

Water Mixing Splash

Back when I was a young “tankie,” we built tanks with one common inlet and outlet pipe because that was the cheapest way to do it. Water quality wasn’t a consideration. I remember a few (of what I considered “over-zealous”) engineers in the 90s designed elaborate piping configurations inside some tanks to separate inlet and outlet water, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the tank price. All for what?

Well, older and wiser, I now realize this was my first exposure to tank mixing. Today, with water quality standards getting more and more stringent, plus improved mixing technologies, we always recommend that potable water tank owners consider tank mixing systems. This applies to new tanks, tanks being repainted, and tanks that have water quality issues where mixing could help.

How to Choose a Water Tank Mixing System


A Few Tank Mixing Options:

GridBee-GS-12 PWM400 Tank Shark Mixer
The first important consideration when selecting a mixing system is clearly identifying what problem(s) you’re trying to solve. Is it low chlorine residual? High water age? Stratification? Ice/Freezing? A combination of these issues? Also, understand that a mixing system that performs well in one of your tanks, may be an abysmal failure in another tank because of the numerous tank size, shape, and operational variables and factors that contribute to successful mixing.


Another critical component to solving the tank mixing puzzle: data. Without it, a mixing design can be a gamble that fails, wasting tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, we recently designed two new tanks, and with no system flow information (because the tanks were new), we couldn’t (1) be sure how the operators would run the system in the future, or (2) guarantee that a passive mixing system would work. So we specified active mixers in the tanks, ensuring complete mixing regardless of system operations, trading off the annual O&M costs.

We, as engineers, love data, and here’s an example of why you should love it too. Last week, my coworker, Rob Horvat, and I were talking with a tank owner near our Pittsburgh office about the new passive mixing system in her 250,000 gallon tank. She was pretty sure it wasn’t working. Based on the data she had, temperature readings taken at various levels inside the tank showed a drop from top to bottom, and were almost identical to readings in an adjacent 1.0 million gallon standpipe that had no mixer. Clearly, something odd was going on! Further discussion brought to light that the design inflow of 350 gpm from the nearby pump didn’t all flow into the 250,000 gallon tank; instead, some went to the 1.0 million gallon standpipe, and some fed into the system. That meant instead of 350 gpm flowing into the tank and fully mixing it in 3 hours as designed, there was as little as 50 gpm going in, and little mixing achieved due to the low flow. Mystery solved! Without the data, this tank owner would have no idea there was even a problem.

If you’re already tracking data in your potable water system and tanks, excellent! If not, here’s where to start:

  • Flow rate into the tank
  • Daily fill and draw rates/water levels over the course of a year
  • Chlorine residual readings in and around the tank over the course of a year
  • Water temperature readings at various heights/water levels in the tank over the course of several months

Getting Started

Tank Mixing Guide

Tank Mixing Guide

Since tank mixing is still in its infancy, and the majority of the 100,000+ potable water tank owners in the United States do not have mixers, we crafted a Tank Mixing Guide to help. It starts with the broad categories of passive vs. active mixers, then delves into various mixer types, and their unique benefits and complications.

We have learned that no one mixer is the end all be all answer for all tanks, budgets, and situations, but with careful analysis of the design, data, costs, and other factors, you can be confident in a tank mixing system/design that provides complete mixing at the best value for your investment.

I love talking all things tanks, so if you’re looking for help or more information, I’m your gal!

Authored by:
Christine Gunsaullus Photo

Christine Gunsaullus

storage tank queen

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Categories: Municipal Infrastructure

Tagged: Potable Water

Add a Comment

Thanks for going into detail about water tank mixing. I had no idea that a mixing system that may work in one tank may not work in another one due to the differing sizes, shapes, and other factors. To be honest, this makes me interested in learning more about all of the varieties of water tanks that are available and have been made over the years. Not only that, but it would be cool to learn the history behind these tanks and what mixing systems have been used in the past. 
Posted by Taylor Bishop on Thursday, August 3, 2017, 11:39 AM

I like that you talked about choosing a system that will be able to fix the problems that you might experience later on. I have been needing to install a new system but I wasn't sure what to choose. I can see how it would be good to find one that prevents freezing, because the temperature can drop really low where I am.
Posted by Scott Adams on Friday, September 22, 2017, 6:36 PM

Hi Christine, My name is Sam Dorman and I am an R&D engineer with Sherwin-Williams. I was wondering if you knew anything about mixing/temperature profiles in tanks that have viscous fluids in them and that are being mixed by impellers in the fluid. I can include more information if you think that would be helpful. I was trying to find information on a system like that and was having some difficulty finding anything and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction.
Posted by Samuel Dorman on Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 2:47 PM

Sam, Thanks so much for reading my blog and asking about mixing. As I explained off-line, the mixing manufacturers are the best place to start, as their R&D departments have typically done testing and have computer programs to analyze mixing effectiveness. Your question about viscous fluids makes me think of wastewater, so best to start with those mixer manufacturers vs. the ones who only do water tanks.
Posted by Christine Gunsaullus, Storage Tank Queen on Thursday, February 20, 2020, 1:41 PM