Water Treatment Plant

Emporia built one of the first waterworks constructed in the State of Kansas. It was built in 1880 near the present site of Peter Pan Park on the Cottonwood River. The contract called for two steam boilers for operating four engines and pumps capable of pumping one million gallons per day through 12 miles of pipe laid to all parts of the city and to the Normal School (Emporia State University), which was not in the city limits. The contract also required that the system deliver water to 30 fire hydrants located in the system. The construction was completed at a cost of $44,350, and on Thursday, June 17 1880, Kansas Governor St. John was on hand to witness the opening operation.

William T. Soden

Most people in Emporia associate the name William T. Soden with Soden's Grove, the area now housing the Emporia Zoo, the old highway bridge, the dam on the Cottonwood River and the All Veterans Memorial Park. But the Emporia Water Plant on the Neosho River owes its location to the actions of William T. Soden.

Mr. Soden moved to Emporia in March 1857. He was a man who recognized and seized opportunity. During his lifetime he became a member, shareholder, or an officer in many organizations within the city and county.

In November of 1860, Bill Soden purchased land bordering both sides of the Cottonwood River south of Emporia. He built a dam, creating a water pond 7 ½ feet above the normal water flow level and acquired the riparian right of water flow. He built a water-powered mill capable of processing 250 bushels of wheat per day. Over the years he continually expanded the mill and added a sawmill, woolen mill, and a furniture factory.

Mr. Soden had strenuously objected to the city building the waterworks on the Cottonwood River but to no avail. One month after the water works went into operation in 1880, Mr. Soden filed an injunction restraining the City of Emporia from using the 12-inch pipe to his millpond. The injunction was eventually taken to the Kansas Supreme Court and the court found the injunction to be valid and on Wednesday, August 24th, 1881, Mr. Soden required the city to shut down the waterworks.

Later in the day, however, it was put back in operation after the City Council appointed a committee to work with Mr. Soden and an agreement was reached that the waterworks could operate until May 1, 1882 for the payment to Mr. Soden of $550.

This arrangement apparently continued until 1885, when the city issued bonds in the amount of $162,000 for the construction of a dam and two reservoirs on the Neosho River and the construction of the waterworks at that location. There, with subsequent major renovations over the years, it remains today.


In 1911 the steam intake pumping station was converted to electric power and in 1916, the water plant was constructed, at 2910 Wwater2 24th Avenue it was equipped with filters, mixing and settling basins, and two open storage basins. Also constructed at that time was a booster pump station and elevated tank at 15th Avenue and Chestnut Street.

In 1946 improvements and additions were made to the plant and the intake pump station. The work included two steel standpipes with a total capacity of 3 million gallons to replace the open storage basins and new mixing and settling basins and two new filters.

In 1958 the plant underwent a major remodeling project that brought the plant capacity to 6 million gallons per day.

In 1970 the plant capacity was increased to 9 million gallons per day by adding three new settling basins and six filters.

In 1989 a High service pump station was built in Dryer Park, and the elevated storage tower located near 12th Avenue and Lakeview Street went into service.

In 1995 the plant began the first phase of a major renovation. Phase I included eight new filters to replace the ones that had served the treatment plant for many years. Computerized flow-paced chemical feed equipment was installed and once again the City of Emporia took the lead by becoming the first water plant in the State of Kansas to use ozone as the primary disinfectant.

Phase II began in 1999 and has increased the plant capacity to 15 million gallons per day. A solid contact basin was constructed to provide the plant with a third basin train, also two new filters were placed into service and new pumps and motors were installed. A new operations building was constructed complete with a new laboratory and training room which has given the City of Emporia the opportunity to host many seminars and training sessions for various organizations throughout the state. Phase II construction was completed in October of 2000.