Reducing lead from distribution systems

GOAL: Distribute safe water / METRIC: Reducing lead from distribution systems

What we track

Blue Accounting is tracking progress by and consistency between jurisdictions in implementing policies to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. 

Water distribution systems and lead

After treatment, drinking water must be distributed through piping owned by the drinking water supplier to the privately-owned plumbing lines of homes and businesses. Lead may be released from lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures, with these materials most likely found in housing stock built before 1986. In the United States, drinking water systems are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. The regulations governing how systems address lead and copper within distribution piping were revised in 2021, although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has acknowledged that more should be done. 

Why it matters

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health by causing damage to the brain and nervous system; slowed growth and development; learning and behavior problems; and hearing and speech problems. The U.S. EPA estimates that drinking water may account for 20% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead. Lead accumulates in bodies over time with children particularly at risk for potential disabilities, and there is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. As such, in the United States, the non-enforceable health goal, known as the “maximum contaminant level goal” is zero.


Lead Inventory Status by Jurisdiction

The U.S. federal Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) require all Community Water Systems (CWSs) to prepare an inventory of their service line materials by October 16, 2024. This map shows which jurisdictions have completed these inventories. Some jurisdictions require that CWSs differentiate between public (the portion of the service line from the water main to the private property boundary) and private (the portion of the service line under private property) service lines. Under the current LCRR, a lead service line replacement is considered complete only if both public and private service lines have been replaced.

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Lead in Drinking Water Policy Comparison

This table tracks implementation of program components from the U.S. Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the EPA’s intended Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI). It also tracks additional program components collaboratively developed by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus (GLLC) from 2018-2020. 

Program components are marked with an asterisk (*) if the GLLC model policy goes beyond what is required by the LCRR. LCRI-derived components are marked with a caret (^). 

Click the state abbreviations in the table header or any individual circle within the table to view state-specific details about the status of program components. 


Program ComponentIL

Action level exceedances must be reported to consumers
Lead in drinking water test results must be reported to local public health agencies

TestingSchools and childcare facilities are required to test for lead in drinking water*
Action level is at or below 12 ppb*^
Action level is at or below 5 ppb for schools and childcare facilities*^

InfrastructureService line material inventory is required under state law

Partial lead service line replacement is prohibited*


Jurisdiction implements this program component
Jurisdiction does not implement this program component
Jurisdiction partially implements this program component