Individual preparedness is never a bad idea. Having a gallon of water per person in your household for three days, along with things like canned foods, batteries, flashlights, etc., provides a very necessary measure of security in an emergency.
The odds of Chesapeake’s water system being shut down to the point where we cannot provide water to our customers are incredibly slim - much lower than most cities.
Several factors contribute to the water systems's reliability including our use of five separate water sources and the flexibility to quickly adjust if one or more becomes unavailable.
The City also maintains an interconnected piping system, along with numerous above ground storage tanks, holding more than 27 million gallons of already treated drinking water. All of these systems have emergency backup power on site.
Treatment plants: We receive water from five separate water treatment plants, which have more capacity than we use on a normal day. The plants are staffed 24/7, 365 days a year to meet the needs of Chesapeake customers. We have the ability to adjust our system to increase or decrease the amount of water received from these sources, as well as adjust the area of Chesapeake that is served by them.
- City of Chesapeake Lake Gaston Water Treatment Plant (WTP)
- City of Chesapeake Northwest River WTP
- Portsmouth Lake Kilby WTP
- Norfolk 37th Street WTP
- Norfolk Moores Bridges WTP
Water Sources: We also have multiple sources within the water supplied by Chesapeake, which provide a similar amount of flexibility, allowing us to serve all of our customers even if three of these sources become unusable.
- Surface water sources:
- Northwest River
- Norfolk’s Western Branch Reservoirs (which receive supplemental water from Lake Gaston)
- Chesapeake’s In-Town Lakes (protected borrow pits storing 100+ days of supply)
- Groundwater sources:
- Northwest River well field with four deep wells
- Western Branch well field with three deep wells including an aquifer storage well storing over 690 million gallons
Piping System: Our water piping system is interconnected so multiple sources can be used to provide water to any of our residents. It takes some effort to make these conversions, but all can be made in less than ½ of a day.
Storage tanks: We have several elevated and ground level storage tanks capable of holding over over 27 million gallons combined of treated drinking water, which would be filled before a storm. The elevated storage tanks are distributed throughout the City and are capable of providing adequate pressure City-wide even if power is lost to the area. Specifically, we have elevated storage tanks at these locations:
- Western Branch
- Kempsville Rd and Battlefield Blvd (Oak Grove)
- Norfolk Highlands
- Cavalier Industrial Park
Backup power: All of our water treatment and pumping facilities have backup power generators that we exercise at least monthly. Some of these are on natural gas or propane, so fuel shortages would have reduced impact, others have dedicated diesel tanks.
Most common problems: It would be likely that there would be some localized water leaks, both on customers systems as well as on the City systems. There are several ways a major storm could cause water main problems.
- Trees blow over and the roots are near the water main or service line, so the pipe gets pulled apart when the roots come up;
- Trees blow over and the upper section branches drive into the ground, penetrating and/or damaging the water line;
- Flooding occurs which washes out ditches, etc., causing water lines to be exposed where they normally are not, and they wash out along with the ditch;
- Lightning strikes get transferred from trees and ground, causing the pipe to blow apart;
- Cars become out of control in the flooding and hit fire hydrants.
- Buildings that are destroyed or have significant damage also experience damage to their plumbing, which in turn may cause leaks. If one subdivision experiences enough of these leaks, it could cause lower pressure in that area and there may be a requirement to turn off water to the area with all of the leaks.
In a major storm event, we believe we will be able to keep safe, potable drinking water supplied to our entire service area, with the caveat that some smaller localized leaks could occur that result in short-term service interruptions for a small number of customers.
There may also be pressure fluctuations, as these would be a result of switching an area being served by a different water treatment plant than normal. This is not to say that it’s 100% guaranteed (nothing ever is) but residents can feel confident in Chesapeake’s systems.