Category Archives: Distance Learning

Charlotte Water Distance Learning: Scavenger Hunt

Activity: Charlotte Water themed scavenger hunt

Age range: All ages

Lace-up your walking shoes for this one! We’ve created a Charlotte Water themed scavenger hunt that anyone can do anywhere. You may not realize it, but your neighborhood is full of vital infrastructure that ensures you have access to safe drinking water and sanitary sewers. You may walk by this infrastrcture every day and not notice them.

Download the scavenger hunt board and check off as many items you can find, you may be surprised at everything you see right in front of your eyes. Let us know if you find all of the items by tagging us on social and you could win a prize!


Here is some information on the items you will be looking for:

Hydrant: Hydrants are placed all around the city, mainly as access points for firefighter use. However, they are also used to clean out any sediments from the water pipes and verify that sufficient water flow is available for use. When we test the hydrants it helps us determine any pressure weakness in the water pipes. Read our blog to learn more about hydrant flushing.

Charlotte Water Truck: Our crews use their trucks to visit various work sites around the city. These truck identify that they are part of the Charlotte Water crew, and are equipped with the necessary supplies to complete their daily tasks.

Charlotte Water Vactor Truck: These are large trucks with tanks attached and are used to remove blockages in wastewater pipes. Blockages are removed by using a strong jet of water to break the blockage up or by a vacuum to remove the blockages from the pipes. If you see one of these in your neighborhood, there is probably a blockage that our crews are working to break up so it doesn’t cause a sanitary sewer overflow. Learn how you can help us Keep Your Pipes Flowing Free here. 

Water meter box: Inside of the box is a water meter that measures the amount of water being used in your home. This box can typically be found in the front of your home. Keep track of how much water you use in a day with our At-Home Water Audit and check out our website to learn how to read your water meter.

Water Valve cover: You may often see these covers (a small lid) in the road covering the valves. These valves under the covers allow our crews to turn the water off for maintenance or repairs. Some covers may have “Water” written on the top of the lid, or you may also see some covers that say “CMUD” which is an acronym for the former name of the Charlotte Water department, which was the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department.

Manhole Covers: Manholes are placed along the sewer lines to provide access to them as needed for inspections or removing objects from the pipes. Depending on their location, some manholes may be raised, while others are level with the road or surface. Raised manhole covers are typically found in low lying areas near creeks and streams so that water does not flow into the manhole during rain events. Check out our blog about inflow and infiltration to learn more.

Monitoring Station: These are stations that give us direct access to water main lines to test the quality of water. There are almost 300 across the county with plans to build more. Learn more about them here.

Water Tower: The primary purpose of a water tower is to help pressurize the water system for distribution throughout the city. That is why these towers stand high above buildings or towns – the water can flow down and the forces of gravity help to push the water through the pipes. Learn how to make your own water tower!

Sewer vent: These are in place to provide ventilation to the sewer system. Your home is also equipped with a vent for your plumbing system. Its primary function is to carry sewer gases safely away from your home.

A Charlotte Water crew working: Our crews work around the clock to keep our water and wastewater system working! You can spot them working around town at various job sites at any time of the day.

Water coloring page: We’ve added this item as a bonus!  Check out our blog post featuring various coloring pages – you can color one or all of them!


Charlotte Water Distance Learning: At-Home Pipe System

Prep Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Learning Time: 50+ minutes
Age Range: Upper Elementary and Middle School
Materials: Paper, pencil, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, rolled paper tubes, straws, cardboard, tape, glue, straws, hair dryer (with adult help)

Have you ever wondered how the water from your faucet gets to your house? It is quite the journey, starting as water in Lake Norman or Mountain Island Lake, from which it is pumped to shore, cleaned at a treatment center, and then moved through some of over 4,000 miles of pipes to your home! It is the job of the engineers and technologists at Charlotte Water to be working every day to build and maintain this system to make sure everyone in our county has access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s no small feat, considering 4,353 miles of pipe is about the same distance as a road trip from here to Alaska!

Water comes into your home from one pipe, which branches out into many separate pipes that lead to all the sinks, bathtubs, hoses, and other appliances that use water. Your task is to create and test a model of the last part of that system – the pipes leading to the faucets in your house! Using common materials, you will be making a small part of that system, with one entry point and two or more exits, and testing it using air instead of water. Air behaves similarly to liquid water (they are both fluids) and won’t make as big of a mess!


  • Draw/design a simple path or diagram of pipes and faucets including a starting point, two or more places that branch out along the way, and end points at the end of those branches.  Here is an example to get you started, but feel free to create your own and try different paths:
  • You need an air source – whether it is a hair dryer (that will blow into materials), your breath into straws, or something else. Keep your path short so your air supply is strong enough to reach the end.
  • Use the materials you have gathered to start building your system. Make sure that your materials can fit your air source in the beginning of your system. If using a hair dryer, use it on high fan setting (most air coming out) but only use the cool setting.
  • Experiment with your tape. Different kinds of tape work better with different materials.
  • Look at the pipes under your sinks (if possible) for inspiration in making your pipe system.
  • As you are joining pieces together try to keep the joints sealed as well as possible, so leaks are minimal. When making turns or a new branch, cutting a hole and making flaps in the joining tube (sometimes called a flange) is one way to add another tube heading in a different direction.
  • As you add a new section, test that the air goes through it and fix any leaks where pieces meet.
  • When getting to the end of a branch test to see if you can feel air making it to that opening.
  • If you cannot feel the air locate where the air is escaping or blocked and fix that trouble spot before moving on.
  • After finishing your build, you will need to test how much air comes through. In water pipes, there needs to be enough water pressure to move the water to where it’s needed, so your pipe system should have enough air pressure. You could:
    • make an anemometer (a device used to measure air speed – see directions below)
    • cut and attach strips cut from a plastic bag of different lengths at the end of each branch
    • make a Flat Stanley cut out with folds at his feet that would bend over in the wind
    • or design your own method of measuring the air flow.
  • If your exits are not getting enough air flow, something might be wrong with your pipe system. This happens in water pipes here in Charlotte, too, and it’s up to engineers to find the problem and fix it.
    • Are there any leaks or cracks where air might be escaping? Have you tried using different kinds of tape to seal it?
    • If you have more than one exit, is there a way to increase airflow through only one of them? What might happen if you block all the exits but one?

Anemometer Instructions:

  • Materials:
    • 5 small Dixie cups
    • 2 straws
    • Hole puncher
    • Stapler or tape
    • Unsharpened pencil
    • Sharpened pencil
    • Marker
    • Straight pins
  • Instructions
    • Use the sharpened pencil to make a hole in the bottom of one of the Dixie cups (make the hole a little larger than the pencil to reduce friction)
    • Use the hole puncher to make two holes below the rim of the cup (make the holes across the cup from each other)
    • Move the hole puncher a little lower on the cup and make two more holes across from each other (this allows the straws to pass through the cup without touching each other)
  • From the video in the link at the bottom of these instructions
    • Place the straws through the holes like in the picture above
    • Use the hole puncher to make one hole in the side of each cup
    • Make sure to make each of the holes at roughly the same height on each cup
    • Pull the straw through the cup to the other side, bend it up, and tape or staple it to the inside of the cup
  • From the video in the link at the bottom of these instructions
    • Repeat this step with each of the cups and make sure the cups are all facing the same direction
    • Push the straight pin through the top of both intersecting straws to hold them in place
    • Put the unsharpened pencil, eraser first, through the hole at the bottom of the cup.
    • Stick the straight pin holding the straws into the top of the eraser to secure it.


Using 1 floor of your house/ apartment, find and count all the cold-water faucets. Draw or diagram where the water pipes might be using your front door as the starting point. Your diagram should branch out and each end should be a faucet. Think of a tree branching out. Use this as your pipe diagram.

The Charlotte Water Distance Learning activities are provided in partnership with Discovery Place, Inc.

Charlotte Water Distance Learning: Cabbage pH Indicator

pH Activity Overview:

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Age range: Elementary and Middle School aged learners (can be modified for older or younger learners)

Water is everywhere! Water is a part of our everyday life – it can take on many forms, and can be described in many different ways: temperature, the amount of salt, how clear it is, and more! Another common way to describe water is by measuring its protons, also known as the “power of Hydrogen,” or better known as pH.

What is pH?

pH is a scale from 0 to 14, which tells us how acidic or basic a liquid is. pH measures how many free protons, also known as positive hydrogen ions, or hydroxide ions, HO are in a substance. The lower the pH, the more free protons, or positive hydrogen ions, there are. The higher the pH, the more of another kind of molecule, negative hydroxide ions, there are. Solutions with a pH of 7, such as pure water, are known as Neutral, or have a perfect balance of hydrogen and hydroxide ions. Acidic substances (like soda, lemons, or batteries) have a low pH (below 7) while basic or alkaline substances (like egg whites, soap, or bleach) have a high pH (above 7).

Photo courtesy of Discovery Place

Water that comes from the faucets in our home should be between a pH of 8.0 and 9.2. Acidic liquids are caustic: they can corrode or eat away certain materials over time. The lower the pH, the more caustic and potentially dangerous an acid can be. Since the pipes that Charlotte Water use to transport our water are made of metal, they can be slowly eaten away by water that is even a little bit acidic. To keep the water at the right pH levels, Charlotte Water treats the water with a rock product called lime that increases the alkalinity of the water. It is important for the engineers and technicians at Charlotte Water to test the pH of its water all over the city to make sure that it stays in this range.

Now that we’ve learned about pH, let’s test our knowledge!

Here is what you will need:

  • Water
  • Red Cabbage (using the outside leaves or scraps is fine)
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Household test chemicals (lemon juice, pickle juice, vinegar, baking soda in water, raw egg, etc.)
  • Clear or white cups or drinking glasses
  • 1 tbsp measuring spoon
  • Bowl
  • Pipette or eyedropper
    • Material Substitution Note: Placing a piece of tape at the end of a straw and poking a pinhole will work as a pipette


  1. With an adult’s help, cut the red cabbage in small pieces. You only need enough cabbage to fill up a drinking glass.
  2. Boil water and pour into a bowl (Be careful! It’s very hot).
  3. Put cut up red cabbage into the bowl of boiling water. (Keep in mind that boiling cabbage in your home will make it smell like, well, boiled cabbage!)
  4. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. While waiting on the red cabbage water, gather the rest of your materials.
  6. Strain cabbage pieces out. The leftover cabbage pieces can be a delicious snack – just add some salt, pepper and olive oil – or they can be put into a compost or trash bin.
  7. Once cool, put 1 tablespoon of cabbage juice into a clear or white cup
  8. Add 5-6 drops (or as close to that as you can manage) of one of your test liquids (lemon juice, pickle juice, vinegar, soda, etc.) and stir
  9. Compare the color of the liquid to the pH scale to determine pH of your test liquid
  10. Repeat for as many liquids as you would like

Why can we use red cabbage to measure pH? That’s because it contains an indicator pigment molecule called flavin, which is a type of anthocyanin (a kind of molecule that changes color based on the pH of the liquid it is in). This pigment can also be found in apple skin, red onion skin, plums, poppies, blueberries, cornflowers, and grapes. Very acidic solutions will turn anthocyanin a red color, neutral solutions to a purplish color, and basic solutions make a greenish-yellow or yellow color.

For younger learners try this…

  • Use a blank piece of white paper as a canvas to paint with the cabbage juice and vinegar.
  • Use the leftover cabbage to make a delicious slaw to have with dinner.

For older learners try this…

  • Soak a coffee filter in the cabbage juice and allow to dry. Once dry, cut filter into strips and try testing other test chemicals (milk, soda, soap solution, etc.) by dipping the strip into the liquid for several seconds, pulling it out and watching for a change in color. Make a hypothesis before you test. Will the solution be neutral? Acidic? Alkaline?
  • Both older and younger kids could take the juice-soaked coffee filter and, using a cotton swab, rub the filter with vinegar or a mixture of baking soda in water. Try overlapping them to see what pHs and colors you can create.

Check out this video to see this experiment in action!

If you try this at home, let us know how it went! Share your photos on social media, and be sure to tag Charlotte Water and Discovery Place.

Happy learning!

The Charlotte Water Distance Learning activities are provided in partnership with Discovery Place, Inc.

Introduction to Charlotte Water Distance Learning

We hope this finds you safe and well during this unique time in history. While most of us find ourselves spending more time at home these days, we are becoming more and more familiar with the world of “distance learning.”

So while our staff is still working hard 24/7 to bring you safe and clean drinking water, we wanted to provide our customers with some at-home resources to learn more about the work we do, and the water we use everyday.

Beginning this week, we will launch the “Charlotte Water Distance Learning” blog series, where we have partnered with our friends at Discovery Place to create a water curriculum available to you online. Through this new series, we will provide various water-related activities and lessons to learners of all ages.

Each activity, or learning tool, will contain information on the targeted age range, materials you will need (if applicable), step-by-step instructions, and/or reading materials.

Be on the look out for these distance learning resources coming soon, and make sure you subscribe to our blog, and follow us on social media so that you never miss an update!

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Distance Learning Activities:

The Charlotte Water Distance Learning activities are provided in partnership with Discovery Place, Inc.