A History of Water in North Carolina

In 1778, the first public water system in North Carolina was located in Salem (now Winston Salem) according to David Howells’ Historical Account of Public Water Supplies in North Carolina.

By 1888 (100 years later) there were still only 12 cities with water supply systems in North Carolina according to the NC Board of Health’s 2nd Biennial Report.  They were a mix of private water companies and publicly owned systems. In fact, the State's Capital, Raleigh, didn't implement a system of its own until 1886, with a steam-powered water treatment plant filtering 2 million gallons per day and sending the water to a reservoir and then to a 100,000-gallon water tower downtown.

 1925 photo of a Raleigh Steam Plant - North Carolina State Archives

 1925 photo of a Raleigh Steam Plant - North Carolina State Archives

In 2015, with another 128 years gone by, the number of public water systems had exploded to approximately 6,151 in North Carolina. A large percentage of these systems (88%) are small systems serving less than 500 persons, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Looking into the future, with many systems spread across water basins and aquifers throughout the State, water treatment plants must be sophisticated in their operation and perform to exacting standards. Since smaller systems operators work doubly hard to maintain their plants’ performance levels, many communities are considering mergers or structured, formal, sharing relationships to improve the quantity, quality and cost of water. To help facilitate this, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality provides grant funds to assist these communities with a professional analysis of potential mergers or regionalization of water systems.

Over the past 80 years, The Wooten Company has watched the ecological and political environments change as we help communities provide water to their citizens. We often perform feasibility analyses of water systems for mergers or regionalization, and continue to act as a partner in preparing for what the future of water in North Carolina has in store.

If your community is interested in a professional merger or regionalization of water systems, or if there are any other infrastructure challenges you face in this time of such rapid change, we are here to help.