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Charlotte Water History


For more than a hundred (100) years the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have protected the environment while providing drinking water and fire protection.  Charlotte City Council hired Charlotte Water Works Company to provide drinking water and fire protection.  In 1899, the city purchased the company for under a quarter of a million dollars.

In 1972, the city and county consolidated efforts to provide a single water & wastewater service.  This department began with 72,000 customers and 2,300 miles of pipe to maintain.  It provided 48 million gallons of drinking water and treated 40 million gallons of wastewater. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilitiles' first pump on the Catawba River in 1903
1903 - The First pump station on the Catawba River.

During the 1980s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) began serving more of  Mecklenburg County.  Over the decades, infrastructure has grown to keep pace with the community.  Technology was used to switch from septic storage to state-of-the-art wastewater treatment and using chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and ultra-violet rays to improve water quality.  

Technology also changed the way we work.  It used to take a crew of ten people a day or more to dig trenches and lay pipe to install or repair a water main.  Today backhoes and heavy equipment make the job a whole lot easier, reducing both the manpower and time needed to complete the job.  Robotic cameras crawl through the wastewater pipes to help crews find exactly where a pipe is blocked and how to remedy the problem. 

Administratively, CMUD has led the nation by competing against and beating the private sector for operation of its water and wastewater treatment facilities.  National treatment standards of water and wastewater are met and surpassed by Utilities' own more stringent standards. 

1870 City Council identified a need for water supply system.

1876  Charlotte constructs sewer service under Trade Street.

1881  First water supply company established called 'Charlotte Water Company.'

1899  50,000-gallon standpipe (a pressure regulator) in Dilworth was built for fire protection.  City of Charlotte purchased the water and wastewater system.

1900  5 million gallon a day filter plant and pumping station on Irwin Creek (less than a mile east from present Vest Water Treatment location on Beatties Ford Road).

1903  The Original Catawba River Pump Station was opened to provide fire protection and drinking water.  The pump station was impounded and flooded by Duke Power in 1920 to create Mt. Island Lake. 

1903  The first wastewater septic / treatment plants were built on property now know as Revolution Park & Freedom Park.

1905  First water treatment plant built.

1911  Irwin Creek water supply failed due to a severe water shortage.  Trains temporarily brought in water.  Utility Department built a new water intake facility on the Catawba River.    According to "Water Rates and By-laws of Charlotte Water Works," the deposit to receive water was a $1.50.  The monthly rate was $.55 for 1,500 gallons or less.  In 1911 customers were located in the 'four wards,' Dilworth, Brevard Street and East Sixteenth.

1917  60 million gallon reservoir built (steam and electricity used for operation) to store water.

1920  Population of Charlotte was 46,538.

1922  Mt. Island Lake created by Duke Power and new raw water intake facility built on the lake.  Vest Water Treatment Plant built (On Beatties Ford Rd).

1923   Charlotte abandoned septic tanks within the city limits.

1927   Charlotte begins construction of two new plants on the current Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek locations.  Sugar Creek (located at Park and Tyvola Road) and Irwin Creek (located on Billy Graham Parkway) wastewater treatment plants were actually miles outside of the city limits when first operated. 

These plants had the capacity to treat 6 million gallons a day with a flow of 3 million gallons a day in the late 1920s.  The facilities were implemented to protect the environment and water providers downstream.

1929    The Literary Digest proclaims "Engines Run on Sewage Gas…the first American city to obtain power upon a plant-operating scale from sewage sludge gas falls to Charlotte…the savings in power cost should pay for an engine installation within three years."

1948   An Industrial Waste Ordinance was adopted to provide treatment of industrial wastes that would otherwise be discharged into creeks.

1949   Charlotte's first use of fluoride as a dental health experiment project.  The natural level of fluoride in the water was .05 - .10 parts per million (ppm).  The experiment prescribed a dosage of 1.05 ppm.  This level was maintained for a month.
 The Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in 1927
1927 Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
 The Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in 1927
1927 Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

1950  Charlotte population 134,042 served by 36,000 water meters.

1959  Franklin Water Treatment Plant (5200 Brookshire Blvd) built.  It provided 12 million gallons of drinking water a day.  It now provides over 100 million gallons of drinking water a day.

1960   Charlotte population was 201,564.

1963   Cowan's Ford Dam and Lake Norman created by Duke Power.

1966   McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant built and serving southern part of Mecklenburg County.

1970  Water use was 33.8 million gallons a day, served via 1,091 miles of water pipe, 82,478 meters, and 3,234 hydrants.

1972  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) formed as a division of the City of Charlotte from existing City and County departments.

1979  McDowell and Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment plants built to serve Huntersville area and University area respectively.

1984  Agreement with six surrounding towns in Mecklenburg County to provide water and wastewater services.

1990    100,000 th customer and 4,000 miles of pipe. 

1996   Operation of Irwin Creek Plant (along with Vest Water Plant) put up for competitive bid.  City developed winning bid, beating 7 international private companies by more than 20%.

1998   North Mecklenburg Water Treatment Plant completed.

2003   Automated meters in use in North Mecklenburg.  Radio signals send the customer's water usage to a computer.

2015 Name changed to Charlotte Water (CLTWater).