The History of Charlotte Water

In 1899, Charlotte City Council purchased Charlotte Water Works Company to provide drinking water and fire protection for the City of Charlotte. 

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. 

During the 1980s Charlotte Water began serving all of Mecklenburg County. Over the decades, infrastructure has grown to keep pace with the community. The 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.

History Timeline

1870 – City Council identified a need for a 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. The City of Charlotte purchased the water and wastewater system. 

1900 – 5 million gallons 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 known 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 $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 – The population of Charlotte was 46,538.

1922 – Mt. Island Lake created by Duke Power and a 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 the dosage of 1.05 ppm.  This level was maintained for a month.

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 is 201,564.

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

1966 – McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant built and serving the 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 the Huntersville area and University area respectively.

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

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

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

1998 – North Mecklenburg Water Treatment Plant completed. Later named Lee Dukes Water Treatment Plant.

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).