Charlotte Water has been adding fluoride to the drinking water since 1949. As the American Dental Association recommended, fluoride concentrations in Charlotte Water are approximately 0.7 milligrams per liter or less than one part per million. That equals one car in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Charlotte to Seattle.
With more than 4,500 miles of drinking water pipe, there is always something to fix. Customers can help by calling 311 or 704-336-7600 when they see or suspect a water leak or water main break. Even after the 311 Call Center is closed customers can say or select ‘water emergency’ to reach our dispatchers 24/7.
Charlotte Water prioritizes leaks so that crews repair emergency leaks first.
The Numbers • 2,000+ repairs per year. Most are service line repairs (between the water main and meter box). • There are multiple pipes under major roads (serving immediate areas and zip codes). • Less than 10% of water pipe infrastructure is over 50 years due to proactive pipe replacement efforts.
Water Pipe Repair Step-By-Step
Within hours, a field technician investigates and attempts to repair if it is an easy fix. If it is a leak that requires a construction crew, the technician prioritizes the leak based on severity. Many repairs require coordination with other departments or towns to minimize the impact on customers or drivers.
Call NC811 to have other utilities spray paint where their pipes / cables are before digging begins. This can take hours.
Crews turn valves to stop water flowing through the leaking pipe. Crews may attempt to repair the pipe while keeping water in service for customers. Cones and barriers are set up to protect workers.
Crews will uncover the pipe to make repairs or replace a section of the pipe. Crews will hand-dig portions to reduce the chance of damaging underground infrastructure.
Fire hydrants flow to test water quality before restoring water service to customers.
Repave and Reopen
Crews will backfill soil into the trench, test compaction, and then repave the road.
Straw is placed over dirt if the repair is in a yard. A separate crew or contractor will return several days or weeks later to complete restoration efforts.
What other factors may extend the time between reporting a water leak and the repair?
Crews attempt to repair leaks without a water outage when possible and if there is time will work on solutions to minimize the outage.
Other utilities (fiber, storm water pipes) conflict with the repair and need to be replaced or moved including a large excavation area.
Pipe requires full replacement including cutting it out and inserting a new pipe.
Repaving depends on the weather. Air temperature is required to be a minimum of 40 degrees and rising in order to properly install asphalt.
Reducing impact on customers
Coordinating with Charlotte Department of Transportation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and/or towns to plan the repair to minimize detours during high traffic times.
Installing new valves to minimize the number of customers affected by a water outage.
Above ground water pipes may be installed to serve customers if the pipe replacement will take several days to complete.
What caused the water main break / leak?
Unfortunately, since water main breaks occur underground, in most cases we can only speculate as to how exactly the pipe broke. Here are some factors:
Construction crews hitting mains while digging for other projects.
Call 811 before you dig to locate the pipes
Temperature changes that can cause the soil to expand and contract, putting stress on pipes.
Sudden change in water pressure. Quick use of a hydrant to fight a fire or a water main break nearby can cause other pipes to leak.
Weak seals or a weakness where two pipes are joined together.
Soil conditions (movement, corrosion, extra soil on top pushing down on pipes)
What causes a water main to break?
There are several factors that can cause a pipe to break, including change in temperature, age and external damage.
Who should I call if I see a leak?
If you see or suspect a leak, call 3-1-1 or 704-336-7600 so that Charlotte Water can quickly dispatch a crew to the location. Our dispatchers are working 24/7 so even after CharMeck 311 is closed you can say or select water emergency after the audio greeting to reach our staff.
“Every day, Charlotte Water routinely repairs and maintains water and sewer pipes across our entire service area,” says Charlotte Water Director Angela Charles. “It’s important that we are doing all that we can to keep customers’ trust in our ability to provide clean, safe and reliable water service to the Charlotte region.”
To stay up to date on the most recent events and announcements, follow Charlotte Water on Twitter @CLTWater. For more information on other pipe replacement and restoration projects, visit us at CharlotteWater.org.
Last month on February 7, Crews responded to a wastewater overflow and found a leaking water pipe under the railroad crossing on Central Avenue. Below is an overview of key steps required to complete the work and reopen the road.
• Stopped a wastewater overflow and found a leaking water main that contributed to the overflow and was not showing above ground.
• Installed a water valve to maintain service to customers.
• Turned off leaking portion of the water pipe.
• Inspected drinking water, wastewater pipes and storm drains to identify all necessary repairs.
• Installed another valve for pipe installation process.
• Installed new water pipes to maintain service long-term.
• Disconnect the leaking pipe from the water system.
• Excavate and replace an old brick manhole with a new precast concrete manhole.
• Add a new lining in wastewater pipes under railroad easement at a future date.
• Excavate and repair storm drain pipes under railroad crossing. Additional work required at a later date.
• Rebuild and reopen the road.
All of this while maintaining railroad for daily use by CSX. These repairs require extensive coordination with CSX and Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT). The goal is to maintain water service and access to businesses during the repair effort. Local traffic can drive around signs to access open businesses. Crews estimate completing the work around March 17th.
Call 311 or 704-336-7600 and say or select ‘wastewater emergency’ to speak to a CLTWater dispatcher. We will respond 24 hours a day.
How can I help reduce overflows?
Toss in the trash: paper towels, wipes, hair, cotton swabs, feminine products, dental floss, coffee grounds, and excess food.
Toss in the toilet: only toilet paper.
Drain in the sink: soap suds, small amounts of food from the plate, and liquids.
Always call 811 before you dig.
Take to a full-service recycling center: used and expired oils and grease.
What causes wastewater overflows?
Clogs of wipes, paper towels, leftover kitchen grease, oils, or anything other than toilet paper.
Pipe failure (tree falls and breaks pipe, stream/creek erosion causing the pipe to fall into the creek)
Tree roots attacking and clogging the pipe
Damage by nearby construction.
How does CLTWater respond?
A rapid response crew will investigate the area and attempt to remove the clog. This work does not impact drinking water quality. Residents and their pets were encouraged to avoid contact with the creek during an overflow response.
How does CLTWater respond to a large overflow?
For example – a tree falls into the creek washing out the creek bank and undermining the wastewater pipe just behind the creek bank. Crews frequently inspect these areas, but erosion can occur quickly during heavy rain events. Crews will:
Create a temporary access road or path if necessary to respond.
Install a temporary wastewater pipe to bypass the broken pipe and stop the overflow. The pumps and temporary above-ground pipes are checked several times daily to prevent possible wastewater overflows.
Stabilize the creek bank.
Construct a barrier / temporary stream bank to protect workers.
Remove the broken pipe.
Install the new pipe and test it.
Rebuild the stream bank with clean fill material (soil).
Remove temporary pipes and pumps.
Remove large spoil piles of dirt.
Plant trees/shrubs and seed/straw the area.
Restore the stream bank and revegetate.
If the greenway was closed during work, it would be restored and reopened. When greenways are affected, CLTWater works with Mecklenburg County on restoration.
How does CLTWater handle tropical storms or heavy rains and prevent spills?
The underground sanitary sewer pipe network is not designed to handle rain, yet the runoff and flooding from large rains inevitably infiltrate the wastewater pipe network. Overflow basins at the five largest wastewater treatment plants capture and later treat more than 160 million gallons of rainwater mixed with wastewater. These equalization basins (EQ basins) help prevent wastewater from overflowing out of manholes in our community.
CLTWater has also added several large wastewater pipes to help reduce the impact of heavy rains. Crews work to prevent rainwater from getting into the sanitary sewer system and are out investigating our system soon after a storm ends.