Tag Archives: History

The History of Charlotte Water

In 1899, Charlotte City Council purchased Charlotte Water Works Company to provide drinking water and fire protection for the City of Charlotte. 

In 1972, the City and County consolidated efforts to provide a single water & wastewater service. This department began with 72,000 customers and 2,300 miles of pipe to maintain. It provided 48 million gallons of drinking water and treated 40 million gallons of wastewater. 

During the 1980s Charlotte Water began serving all of Mecklenburg County. Over the decades, infrastructure has grown to keep pace with the community. The technology was used to switch from septic storage to state-of-the-art wastewater treatment and using chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and ultra-violet rays to improve water quality.

History Timeline

1870 – City Council identified a need for a water supply system. 

1876 – Charlotte constructs sewer service under Trade Street.

1881 – First water supply company established called ‘Charlotte Water Company’.

1899 – 50,000-gallon standpipe (a pressure regulator) in Dilworth was built for fire protection. The City of Charlotte purchased the water and wastewater system. 

1900 – 5 million gallons a day filter plant and pumping station on Irwin Creek (less than a mile east from present Vest Water Treatment location on Beatties Ford Road).

1903 – The Original Catawba River Pump Station was opened to provide fire protection and drinking water. The pump station was impounded and flooded by Duke Power in 1920 to create Mt. Island Lake.

1903 – The first wastewater septic/treatment plants were built on property now known as Revolution Park & Freedom Park. 

1905 – First water treatment plant built.

1911 – Irwin Creek water supply failed due to a severe water shortage. Trains temporarily brought in water. Utility Department built a new water intake facility on the Catawba River. According to “Water Rates and By-laws of Charlotte Water Works,” the deposit to receive water was $1.50. The monthly rate was $.55 for 1,500 gallons or less. In 1911 customers were located in the ‘four wards,’ Dilworth, Brevard Street, and East Sixteenth.

1917 – 60 million gallon reservoir built (steam and electricity used for operation) to store water.

1920 – The population of Charlotte was 46,538.

1922 – Mt. Island Lake created by Duke Power and a new raw water intake facility built on the lake. Vest Water Treatment Plant built (On Beatties Ford Rd).

1923 – Charlotte abandoned septic tanks within the city limits.

1927 – Charlotte begins construction of two new plants on the current Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek locations. Sugar Creek (located at Park and Tyvola Road) and Irwin Creek (located on Billy Graham Parkway) wastewater treatment plants were actually miles outside of the city limits when first operated.

These plants had the capacity to treat 6 million gallons a day with a flow of 3 million gallons a day in the late 1920s.  The facilities were implemented to protect the environment and water providers downstream.

1929 – The Literary Digest proclaims “Engines Run on Sewage Gas…the first American city to obtain power upon a plant-operating scale from sewage sludge gas falls to Charlotte…the savings in power cost should pay for an engine installation within three years.”

1948 – An Industrial Waste Ordinance was adopted to provide treatment of industrial wastes that would otherwise be discharged into creeks.

1949 – Charlotte’s first use of fluoride as a dental health experiment project.  The natural level of fluoride in the water was .05 – .10 parts per million (ppm).  The experiment prescribed the dosage of 1.05 ppm.  This level was maintained for a month.

1950 –Charlotte population 134,042 served by 36,000 water meters.

1959 – Franklin Water Treatment Plant (5200 Brookshire Blvd) built.  It provided 12 million gallons of drinking water a day.  It now provides over 100 million gallons of drinking water a day.

1960 – Charlotte population is 201,564.

1963 – Cowan’s Ford Dam and Lake Norman created by Duke Power.

1966 – McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant built and serving the southern part of Mecklenburg County.

1970 – Water use was 33.8 million gallons a day, served via 1,091 miles of water pipe, 82,478 meters, and 3,234 hydrants.

1972 – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) formed as a division of the City of Charlotte from existing City and County departments.

1979 – McDowell and Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment plants built to serve the Huntersville area and University area respectively.

1984 – Agreement with six surrounding towns in Mecklenburg County to provide water and wastewater services.

1990 – 100,000th customer and 4,000 miles of pipe.

1996 – Operation of Irwin Creek Plant (along with Vest Water Plant) put up for competitive bid.  The city developed a winning bid, beating 7 international private companies by more than 20%.

1998 – North Mecklenburg Water Treatment Plant completed. Later named Lee Dukes Water Treatment Plant.

2003 – Automated meters in use in North Mecklenburg.  Radio signals send the customer’s water usage to a computer.

2015 – Name changed to Charlotte Water (CLTWater).

Life in 1927 vs. 2017

No one can dispute that a lot has changed in 90 years. One thing that hasn’t changed is Charlotte Water’s commitment to safeguarding public health and protecting our waterways.  Our twin wastewater treatment plants, Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek are celebrating their 90th birthday this year (they were built in 1927). While these two plants have expanded and advanced in technology throughout the last 90 years, they continue to be an award-winning treatment plant that serves the Charlotte community 24/7.

Let’s compare the world in 1927 to now.

1927 2017
President: Calvin Coolidge President: Donald Trump
Top Film: The Jazz Singer

Jazz Singer

Top Film: Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Top Song: Ain’t She Sweet by Gene Austin

Listen Here

Top Song: Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

Listen Here

Average Household Income: $1,358 Average Household Income: $56,516
Gallon of milk cost: $0.56 Gallon of milk cost: $3.30
Gallon of Gas: $0.21 Gallon of Gas: $2.32
Postage Stamp: $0.02 Postage Stamp: $0.49
Top Book: The Complete Sherlock Holmes By Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes

Top Book: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis By J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

Top Baby Name: Robert (m) Mary (f) Top Baby Name: Liam (m) Emma (f)
Average College Cost per year: $400 Average College Cost per year: $33,480


Sugar & Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plants Celebrate 90 Years!

Protecting Charlotteans public health and waterways is something to celebrate. Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plants do just that and are celebrating their 90th birthdays. When today’s Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek plants began construction in 1927, the plants were among the first modern-style plants in the state using the highly-effective activated sludge (microbiological) treatment process. The twin facilities — both located 6 miles outside the City limits at that time — were a modern marvel featured in the November 1928 edition of Public Works Magazine.

The activated sludge process removed nutrients and organic materials from the waterway. This development led to, arguably, the single most significant improvement in public health and environmental protection during the course of the century.


iwin creek lab and vacuum sludge dewatering 1927
Irwin Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant- 1927


When they opened, both plants boasted a total treatment capacity of 6 million gallons per day (mgd) and an average flow of about half that amount.

Sugar & Irwin were not the original wastewater plants. In fact, Charlotte’s first recorded sewer system dates back to July 17, 1876, when a contract was awarded for the first sewer lines along Trade Street. In 1903, large sewer collection pipes (outfalls) were begun for the Sugar & Irwin creek basins. Sugar Creek WWTP has been at its existing site since 1924 and performed partial treatment of wastewater before it was put back into creeks and streams, but three years later, work began on new-and-improved plants utilizing activated sludge technology and fully treating the wastewater.


a1927 SUGAR copy
Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant – 1927


Fast forward to 2017, Sugar and Irwin Creek wastewater treatment plants are still serving the ever-growing population of Charlotte 24/7. Along with three other wastewater treatment plants, 80 million gallons of wastewater is treated daily.