Category Archives: Drought & Conservation

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.

CWRB

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.

Save Water While it Gets Hotter

It’s finally summer. So we thought of five more ways to conserve water this summer. Keep these in mind while you keep cool on these hot days.

  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. Do your dish washing and laundry during off-peak hours [and only when the dishwasher is full. Grab the doggie food bowls to fill up that last empty space!.
  4. Water your lawn slowly. It’s really difficult to get water to soak into soils in Charlotte. When you start to notice water running off the lawn or pooling, it’s time to stop the sprinkler and give the soil time to catch up.
  5. 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!

Pledge to be Bottle Free in CMGC

With the release of our annual Water Quality Report also comes the initiative “Bottle free in CMGC (Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center.)” The main idea of this is to reduce plastic waste from water bottles within the government center. How do we do this? It is through a multiple step process.

The first step was to show the confidence we had in our tap water. Many people drink from bottled water because they know it is clean and have confidence in it. We too have confidence in our tap water and the ability to provide it 24/7. Our water meets and exceeds the state and federal requirements, making us confident in what we serve you.

Next was the implementation of recyclable compostable drinking cups. These cups are made out of corn and are environmentally friendly. These cups are offered at every meeting to make sure that even those who forgot their reusable bottles can feel confident that they are not producing waste.

Tumblers were put at each council member’s seat in order to also provide them with the tools to drink bottle free. These tumblers are being given out in the Government Center as a way to not only have a resource to not use bottles, but as a way to remind people about the excellence we provide in our tap water.

With that, we also provided the government center with pitchers for meeting and events. These pitchers not only save waste, but are also a symbol during meetings of the initiative and the idea the Environmental Committee has that  “Charlotte will become a global leader in environmental sustainability, balancing economic growth, while preserving our natural resources.”

Last was the pledge from Environment Committee Chair, Councilwoman Kinsey. She pledged that the City Council would not use water bottles, and would use sustainable materials moving forward. When asked about why this was important to her she said, “It just makes sense to be using these renewable and sustainable products. If we don’t start using these products now, we are all going to be living on top of landfills.”

Not using water bottles can have a large impact on our landfills. At Charlotte Water our partnership with the Government Center is a step forward in creating a better Earth.  For every six water bottles, only one will be recycled. Those that do not end up being recycled can take hundreds of years to disintegrate in landfills. These two facts alone have convinced us to be bottle free. Will you take the pledge with us?