Water Preparedness

Dayton Water Maintaining and Responding by Kevin Michell



Each Dayton water treatment facility has Emergency Response Plans. These plans address all types of emergencies. We update those plans annually – that’s an Ohio EPA requirement. We go beyond requirements. Every year, we conduct emergency exercises for natural disasters and other catastrophes. These exercises include our community partners, such as Public Health, Ohio EPA, businesses, universities, Public Works, Police, and Fire.

We use case studies of actual events from other water utilities. This tests the capabilities of our water system. We evaluate our response under similar conditions. We also test the systems with simulations of manmade disasters, natural disasters, cyber-terrorism, and more.

By simulating emergencies, in detail, we prepare for the real thing. The lessons learned from all these exercises are used to improve operations.


Redundancy refers to duplicate systems. These lessen service interruptions. Since 1954 the City has had only two water system wide service disruptions that included system-wide boil advisories. This stellar record can be credited to the redundancy of our water treatment plants, pump stations, well fields, and electric feeds. Additionally, in the case of a major main break, the robust distribution system allows routing water to areas where it is needed.

The City of Dayton has built-in redundancy in its water system. We have two separate water treatment plants. Each treatment plant has an independent pump station that can support the entire system’s demand. And each plant can treat enough water to meet the region’s current need.

Our two independently operated well fields can each produce enough water for every customer. The City has over 100 production wells. Less than half are used at any time. And the City has an undeveloped well field for additional future redundancy.

Here’s a diagram that shows the redundancy of our water system:

Graphic showing an overview of the Dayton water system

Dayton also has redundant electrical feeds, both a primary and secondary feed, to each treatment plant, pump station, and well field. We also have mobile backup generators. The mobile generators can be sent to strategic locations during an emergency.

In addition to redundant electrical feeds, Dayton had an estimate prepared to add a third layer of redundant power provided by generators to fully back up the system. The estimated cost was determined to be $45.2 million. The multiple large generators to fully back up the system would require an increase in water rates of about 2%.

The City pursued grant funding to provide sufficient additional permanent generators to maintain a minimal level of service in the event of total loss of power from the utility company. Minimal level of service means that pressures would be maintained so that no boil advisories would be required, and that water would be available from hydrants for fire protection. The City was awarded a grant of $3.6 million for the purchase of generators. Five generators will be installed at our water treatment plants and pump stations to maintain a minimal level of service. The total cost is expected to be $4.5 million and the City will pay the difference between the grant and the total cost.

Here’s a diagram that shows each Dayton’s water plant current electrical redundancy:

Graphic showing an overview of Dayton water plant electrical redundancy


Since 1954, Dayton has had two system wide boil advisories. Both occurred in 2019.


The first system wide boil advisory since 1954 was in February 2019. It was due to a 36” water main break. This led to the Miami Water Treatment Plant losing pressure. The 36” water main runs in an embankment parallel to the Great Miami River. The river was near flood stage when the water main broke. The location of the main break was under water. The Ottawa Water Treatment Plant provided redundancy and was able to provide enough pressure that the water bubbled up to the surface of the river.

Bubbles on surface of Miami River

Once the location of the break was identified, crews were able to quickly isolate the break and restore the system to normal operations. Once the Great Miami River flood stage retreated, a diver was able to determine that the embankment supporting the 36" water main had washed away. This undermined the water main causing sections of the 36” water main to become disconnected. Work on a nearby bridge caused the issue.

Diver locating break in water main below riverDiagram showing construction of bridge and its proximity to water main


The second system wide boil advisory was due to unprecedented tornados in May 2019. These tornados led to widespread power outages and destruction throughout our region. Both of our Water Treatment Plants and associated well fields and pumping stations lost power ALL POWER. Incredibly, all redundant electrical feeds were knocked out. Eight transmission towers were impacted. 

During this emergency, Dayton Water reacted quickly and effectively. We made sure that water was available to fight fires. Four water tankers were brought in and strategically located throughout the region to provide a water supply for fire crews. Each of these water tankers carried 3,500 gallons of water. That was in addition to the 500-750 gallons of water carried on each fire engine. We also added staff and equipped two fire engines with the tools necessary to draw from natural water sources, such as ponds, rivers, and lakes. When dispatching emergency calls, the Regional Dispatch Center would include requests for any of these additional resources when needed.

The Miami Water Treatment Plant came on line first. Due to the redundancy of our system, the Miami Water Treatment Plant and its associated wellfield and pumping station were able to supply all demand.


Another example of emergency preparedness occurred in 2020. In August 2020, a 48” water main at the Ottawa Pump Station failed. The force of the water from this break dislodged a portion of a 30” water main. The 30” water main supplied a portion of the high pressure service area. And the water eroded a portion of a 36” water main. The 36” water main fed water tanks on the South side of Dayton. Field staff were able to isolate the breaks. Because of redundancy in the distribution system, water could be and was rerouted to provide pressure to all portions of the system.

Workers repairing uncovered underground water main

Click this linkPFAS for information about Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.