From the River to the Tap: Water Quality Testing

From the River to the Tap:

It’s hard to believe the clean, fresh water that comes from your tap actually started its journey as a drop of water in the Catawba River.

Hundreds of Charlotte Water employees are part of that journey, and during National Drinking Water Week, we celebrate and recognize the vital role water plays in our community. Every day this week, we’ll meet one of those employees helping deliver water from the river to your tap.

Today, we go out in the field to find out how Charlotte Water ensures our water is safe – across Mecklenburg County.



“What we do is critical. We are responsible for water safety throughout the area. What we do affects the medical community, it affects our customers. It’s very important.”

David Bryant holds a vial of water up to the light and examines it before making a notation in his files – all done from the traveling lab in the back of his vehicle. It’s something he does dozens of times a day as lead water quality tech. He’s been with Charlotte Water since 2012, but his experience in the field goes back 19 years, with jobs in Montgomery, Ala. and his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.

His job is to check water quality across Mecklenburg County, whether customers have concerns, field results show something out of the ordinary, or a sample station has an unusual result.

His day starts with reviewing customer concerns that came in to 311 overnight. “I want to get as much information as possible about the issue and potential causes before I call the customer,” he said. “It saves time on both sides, and when I call, I can help them troubleshoot the issue.”

David uses all the tools he can to diagnose a problem, checking whether emergency work happened near a customer’s home, reviewing City maps to see which hydrants are nearby, what type of pipes are in the area.

For example, a customer called with concerns about brown water. David checked the address and saw hydrants were being flushed in the area, which was the likely issue. He asked the customer to run his water until it was clear, and that solved the problem.

“I try to treat people as I want to be treated,” he said. “I look at each issue as if I was the customer.”

David and his coworkers not only diagnose customer issues, but they also do regular water quality checks across the county. “Many businesses allow us to check their water, so I do a field test to monitor the water’s pH, temperature, turbidity [cloudiness of the water], chlorine and iron levels. That gives us an idea of what’s going on with the water in the area, without having to take samples from customers’ homes.”

Charlotte Water is also installing sample stations across Mecklenburg County. “That allows us to easily get and test samples in all areas,” David said. He and his coworkers process more than 300 samples a month as part of an overall lab report.

Water quality technicians work with all other Charlotte Water departments to ensure our water is clean and safe.

“When we find a field result that shows low chlorine in the system, we reach out to the water treatment plant and ask them to boost it. We work with the labor crews on repairs, and the customer service team, because we respond when customers have issues.”

Issues and challenges can come at any time, and that’s one reason David likes his job.

“It’s never routine or boring,” he said. “Every day is different. If the weather changes, if there’s a storm, the water quality can change. I’m always learning, every day, which is important.”

To read the next step in the water process click here