Category Archives: Drought & Conservation

Outdoor Water Conservation: Smart Irrigation & Other Useful Tips

One sprinkler running for 10 minutes can use up to 170 gallons. Think about how many sprinkler heads you have, how long they run for and how many days/week they run? It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where you are using almost 40 ccfs (30,000 gallons) per month.

Our pricing structure is designed to encourage conservation. The more gallons you use the more a gallon costs.

Customers call requesting that we inspect the meter for inaccuracies but most of the time, it’s a leak or irrigation. That doesn’t mean that equipment problems don’t occur though so,  if you don’t think its a leak or your irrigation system causing the high bill, call 311 so Charlotte Water can investigate.

Smart Irrigation:

Smart irrigation technology uses weather data and soil moisture data to determine the irrigation needs of a landscape. These generally include the use of sensors and controllers to effectively manage your landscape irrigation.

You can incorporate smart irrigation technology with best practices below. However, you can always incorporate these ideas of efficient irrigation with a current system you already have.

  1. Seasons change, so should your system. Familiarize yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller and adjust the watering schedule regularly to conform with seasonal weather conditions.
  2. Evaporation is highest in the afternoon. Avoid irrigating between noon and 6 pm.
  3. Play “zone” defense. Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system to account for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure, and the soil type for the specific area. The same watering schedule rarely applies to all zones in the system. Make it a date.
  4. Inspect your irrigation system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads, and other problems, or engage an irrigation professional to regularly check your system. Clean micro-irrigation filters as needed.
  5. Get your head adjusted. Correct obstructions in sprinkler heads that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Keep water off pavement and structures.

Other Outdoor Water Conservation Tips

  1. Water your lawn slowly. It is difficult to get water to soak into the soil in Charlotte. If you notice water running off the lawn or pooling, stop the sprinkler and give the soil time to absorb the water.
  2. Be mindful of how much water you are using for your lawn. Lawns only need one inch of water, including rain, a week.
  3. Consistently remove water-hogging weeds.
  4. Mulch to retain moisture. Mulch around trees, shrubs, and flowers to help the soil retain moisture and prevent weeds.
  5. Wash Fido outdoors in an area of lawn that needs to be watered. You’ll have a clean dog and a watered lawn. Be mindful of the dog shampoo you use, because the soap will soak into your lawn with the water.
  6. Plant more trees! And then more trees. Eventually you’ll have less lawn. Turfgrass is not native to Charlotte. Which means it needs water, usually more than provided by Mother Nature. Converting lawn to native trees and shrubs cuts back the need for outdoor watering substantially. And don’t forget the mulch!
  7. Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and allow leaf litter to accumulate on the soil. This keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.

Useful Links

16 Ideas for Indoor Water Conservation

Since 2001, water consumption for an average family of four in Mecklenburg County has gone down from 11 Ccfs (8,228 gallons) per 30-day billing cycle to 7 Ccfs (5,236 gallons) per 30-day billing cycle. We attribute this to increased water conservation measures as well as the installation of more efficient appliances and irrigation systems.

So problem solved right? Well, not exactly. We can always do more and who doesn’t like a challenge? So besides the usual stuff like not running the tap while brushing your teeth or taking shorter showers, what other ways can we conserve water? If you can’t think of any, not to worry! We’ve got you covered with ideas for your bathroom and your kitchen.

Bathroom Conservation Ideas:

  1. Update your showerheads and faucets. Water-efficient showerheads and aerators for faucets can significantly reduce the amount of water you use. In fact, installing a water-efficient showerhead is one of the most effective water-saving steps you can take inside your house. Go to the EPA’s WaterSense website for more information. 
  2. Take shorter showers. If everyone in the United States shortened their shower by one minute every day, we could save 85 billion gallons per year.
  3. Place a bucket in the shower to collect the water while it is heating up. Use the water on plants or to refill a flushing toilet.
  4. Toilets are not trash cans, only flush the toilet when necessary. This helps conserve water and helps reduce sewer overflows. 
  5. Don’t leave the water running when brushing your teeth or shaving.
  6. Fix that leak! A faucet drip of two tablespoons a minute adds up to 105 gallons a week of water wasted. Question on fixing or checking for a leak? Check out our tips on fixing at-home leaks.

Kitchen Water Conservation Ideas

  1. Cook food in as little water as possible, this also helps retain foods nutrients.
  2. Run the dishwasher only when it is full and during off-peak hours for maximum savings.
  3. Dry scrape your dishes, the dishwasher will take care of the rest
  4. Use your disposal sparingly, it wastes water and puts stress on our sewer system
  5. Don’t forget an aerator for the kitchen faucet!

Laundry Water Conservation Ideas:

  1. Use the lowest water level setting on the washing machine for light or partial loads whenever possible.
  2. Use cold water as often as possible to save energy (which uses water) and conserve hot water for uses that cold water cannot serve.

General Home Ideas:

  1. Chuck the melted ice from your lunch to-go cup in a desk plant or house plant. [Not the soda, the melted ice. A little bit of sweet tea will be okay]
  2. Temporarily move houseplants outside in the rain. Water from the sky is free!
  3. Insulate hot water pipes to save energy and water. Remember water is an integral part of creating energy, and energy is necessary to treat drinking water. Conserving water conserves energy and vice versa. Check out our Energy and Water Nexus article for more information.

Have any other creative ways you conserve water? Let us know in the comments section and we will share them on Twitter.

Thanks to the Water Use It Wisely website for the tips.

Charlotte Water Is The First Utility in the Region to Turn Waste Into Electricity

This year, Charlotte Water completed construction on a system at McAlpine Wastewater Treatment Plant that captures and converts methane gas (a byproduct of wastewater treatment) into a fuel for electricity production and useful heat.

Typically the bacteria used to break down organic materials during wastewater treatment creates their own waste in the form of methane. Up to 900 pounds of this waste is produced per day at McAlpine and is normally used for heating in boilers or burned off. The new facility to convert methane gas into something useful is called a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) facility – and Charlotte Water is the first water/wastewater utility in the state to utilize this system.

The CHP facility produces 762,480 kWh in a given month, which is enough energy to run about 846 homes.

The electricity will be added to the electric grid through a partnership with the local electric provider, Duke Energy. The excess heat will be returned to the wastewater treatment process, offsetting some of the electricity it needs to operate.

A 20-year, zero-interest loan from the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (a federal Clean Water Act program that’s been in operation since the late 1980’s) financed the project. The state allowed for no-interest financing because of the project’s positive environmental impact and renewable energy generation, which made it financially feasible for the utility. The partnership means Charlotte Water won’t have to divert any of its operations budget reserved for routine system upgrades, there will be no additional costs to water customers, and the project will pay for itself in about a decade.

Will We Run Out of water?

The short answer is no, not if we continue on a sustainable path and practice conservation. But what does that actually mean? And how do we know we won’t run out.

Let’s first look into our water supply. Then we will learn how it is managed and what you can do to ensure water is around for years and years.

City of Charlotte/Mecklenburg County withdraws our drinking water from Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman, both part of the Catawba River and the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. This river basin supports nearly 2 million people with water for drinking, power generation, industrial processes, crop and livestock production, recreation, irrigation and more. About 25% of Duke Energy’s electricity for the Carolina’s is made in the 13 hydro stations on the river basin.


So where exactly is this water going, and who uses it?

where is water going

One of the most surprising things is that Catawba-Wateree River basin loses 204 million gallons/day from natural evaporation alone. You can imagine how much has evaporated during these hot summer months.

A 2006 Water Supply Study found maximum capacity of Catawba River Basin for water supply could be reached mid-century. Thus, a group was formed in 2007 to access and figure out a way to extend the life of our river basin.

This group that consists of Duke energy, who owns and operates the dams that manage the water and the 18 munincipalities is called the Catawba-Wateree Management Group. It is a non-profit corporation working to extend and enhance the capacity of the Catawba and Wateree Rivers to meet human needs while maintaining the ecological health of the waterway. This group was tasked with creating a Water Supply Master Plan.

The master plan identifies the current challenges associated with a limited water supply especially during periods of drought. It also identifies a series of recommendations that could extend the regional water supply capacity of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin into the next century.

Key recommendations of the plan include:

  • Increased water use efficiency
  • Lowering critical water intakes/elevations (via Duke Energy’s management of the dam system)
    • Power Plant
    • Public Water Supply
  • Raise target levels during the summer months
  • Enhance the Drought responsiveness through the Low Inflow Protocol (the protocol we use to determine what drought stage we are in and what amount of conservation is needed to ensure we have enough water for essential uses).

With implementation of the Catawba-Wateree Water Supply Master plan, we should extend the river’s capacity to sustain grown through 2100.

The good news is that total average water consumption for Charlotte Water customers is decreasing .totalaverage

This is most likely attributed to more efficient appliances, smart irrigation and behavior changes.  This along with good infrastructure, financial and business planning will ensure that we have enough water for all current and future Mecklenburg County residents.

For more informatoin about the Water Supply Master Plan visit the Catawba-Wateree Management Group website.