Category Archives: Distance Learning

Charlotte Water Distance Learning: The Journey of Water

Activity: Educational article about the journey of our water and its treatment process.

Age range: All ages

Our water goes on quite a journey from the Catawba River, through our treatment processes, up to our water towers, into your homes and businesses and back out again. In this lesson, we will provide you with some step-by-step insight into the full cycle of our water.

Step 1: Pumping the Water

Our Pump stations are located at Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake. Raw water is pulled from the lakes and pumped to our three treatment plants – Lee S. Dukes Water Treatment Plant, Franklin Water Treatment Plant, and Vest Water Treatment Plant. This water is pumped at night when the cost of electricity is low. Water from Lake Normal flows by gravity to the Lee S. Duke Water Treatment Plant.

Step 2: Water Treatment

When the water arrives at the water treatments plants, it is cleaned through coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. An average of 108 million gallons of water is pumped at our water treatment facilities each day. After we treat the water, it is distributed to businesses, factories, schools, and your home!

Kris Del Valle, Water Treatment Plant Operator, explains more about the water treatment process.

Step 3: Water Tower Storage

Once water has been treated at one of treatment plants, some of that water is pumped to a nearby water tower for storage and later distribution. Water towers also serve the purpose of pressurizing the distribution system. You can learn more about this step in the process by building your own water tower at home!

Step 4: Storm Water

Rainwater is another important factor in the journey of our water. The runoff from rainfall goes directly into a stormwater drain and straight into our streams. These drains are managed by the Storm Water Services department, who works year-round to manage the runoff from rainfall, reduce flooding, restore floodplains and protect the water quality of surface waters county-wide.​

Step 5: Wastewater Treatment

Once the wastewater leaves a business or home, it travels from your home, place of business or school through 4,200 miles of wastewater pipes to one of our treatment plants. The wastewater is separated into liquids and solids. The liquids are cleaned and put back into our creeks and streams, the solids are converted to biosolids.  ​

Henry Eudy, Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor, explains more about the wastewater treatment process.

Step 6: Biosolids

You may be wondering, what are biosolids?

Biosolids are nutrient-rich byproducts of wastewater treatment. They can be used on hay fields as fertilizer. Through biosolids management, solid residue from wastewater treatment is processed to reduce or eliminate pathogens and minimize odors, forming a safe, beneficial agricultural product. Biosolids are carefully monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.​

If you would like to read more about biosolids, please visit our biosolids page.

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

Charlotte Water Distance Learning: Coloring!

Age range: All ages!

Activity: Charlotte Water’s customized coloring pages, and the ICMA coloring book.

Break out your crayons and colored pencils! We are inviting kids and adults of all ages to engage their creative side and color any and all of our customized coloring sheets. We have also included a coloring book from the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) that shows the work of various local government employees and their contributions to our community – be sure to check out page #15 in their coloring book!

Once you’ve completed your coloring, you can show off your artwork by displaying the pages in your window at home – preferably in a place where folks outside can see it displayed. Something small can go a long way to brighten someone’s day! Or as always, share with us on social media!

ICMA Coloring Book – check out page 15!

Share with us here:

Charlotte Water Distance Learning: Build Your Own Water Tower

Age range: Upper Elementary and Middle School Students

Challenge: To build a structurally efficient model water tower that holds water and can be filled and drained quickly, while also being aesthetically pleasing.

This week’s activity is to build your own water tower at home! In years past, Charlotte Water has held a competition for students to build their own water tower to be reviewed by a panel of judges, but as an alternative we have provided this activity to allow anyone to try this out at home.

The purpose for this project is not only to have fun and experiment with building your own tower, but also to bring awareness to the importance of reliable drinking water and to the various jobs and duties within the water profession. This project does this by having learners develop their own idea into a functioning water tower, just like water professionals do in the real world!

While designing your water tower, it is important to focus on these four criteria: structural efficiency, hydraulic efficiency, cost efficiency and design ingenuity. Understand and achieve these criteria to do well! They are explained below.

Structural Efficiency

Structural efficiency is calculated by dividing the weight of the model when it is empty by the average height of the tank, times (multiplied by) the amount of water it holds. The lower this number the better. This is shown with the following formula:

Remember, the tank should be between:

  • 1.5 feet from the base of the tower to the bottom of the tank,
  • 2.5 feet from the base of the tower to the hydraulic height (the point where the tower cannot hold any more water, i.e. top or overflow point), and
  • Base should fit within a one square foot area.

Hydraulic Efficiency

Hydraulic efficiency is the amount of time it takes to fill the model with one gallon of water and drain it back out again. The less time it takes to fill and drain the tank through the connector the better.

Cost Efficiency

Cost efficiency measures your ability to save money while building your model. For this project, we encourage builders to use materials that they already have, and to only make purchases if necessary. Once complete, see how well you did using the cost efficiency rating system below:

$0.00 – $5.00 = 5 stars

$5.01 – $10.00 = 4 stars

$10.01 – $15.00 = 3 stars

$15.01 – $20.00 = 2 stars

More than $20.00 = 1 star

Design Ingenuity

Ingenuity is how much imagination and skill were used in your model. Water professionals must often use ingenuity; they use skill and imagination to solve difficult problems. It is important to keep the following in mind when designing and building your tower:

  • Craftsmanship: Is the model sturdy, do the parts fit together nicely?
  • Imagination: Are the design or materials unique?
  • Artistic merit: Does the model have creative ideas, colors or themes?

Once you have completed your project, we would love to see how you did! Feel free to share on social media and tag us!

Good luck, engineers!

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.