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Reducing lead levels in the tap water

Historically lead pipework was used to connect properties to the water mains. Today, it is widely recognised that exposure to lead should be minimised for health reasons.

The water that leaves our treatment works and passes through our distribution network is virtually free of lead. However, the pipework leading from our mains into some buildings can be made of lead.

We're undertaking a programme of targeted replacement or lining of the lead pipes in our network with the backing of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and our regulator, Ofwat.

What can you do in your home?

Whilst we'll be replacing or lining our lead pipes that connect our main to your property, there could still be lead pipework used for the supply of drinking water within the boundary of your property. This is your responsibility to check.

How do I know if I have lead pipes?

Prior to 1970 lead was commonly used for pipework in and around properties because it was flexible yet robust. However, the use of lead pipework was banned in 1969, so properties built since this time are highly unlikely to contain lead pipework.

If you want to check the pipework in your property the best place to start is where the water supply enters your house. This is normally in the kitchen but can be elsewhere and is typically where the internal stopcock is located. Lead pipes are normally dark grey in colour but if gently scraped shiny silver coloured marks appear.

Other commonly used plumbing materials are: copper, which is bright or dull brown in colour and quite hard; galvanised iron, which is dark brown, very hard and may have some rusty deposits around it; and plastic, which can be blue or black.

Lead may also be introduced to drinking water through the illegal use of lead-based solder to join sections of copper pipework carrying drinking water. Lead-based solder can still be used within closed-loop central heating systems, however sometimes this solder can mistakenly be used within pipework supplying drinking water.

Most houses have been re-plumbed above ground level but there may still be lead pipework in the ground under your property. This pipework is the responsibility of the property owner?

If I have lead pipes what can I do?

There are some simple steps that can be taken now to reduce lead levels in properties with lead pipework:

  • Run the water for a minute before using it for drinking or cooking, especially after the water has been standing for a long time, e.g. first thing in the morning. The water that has been run off can be used to water plants.

  • Only use water from the kitchen cold tap for drinking and cooking, as hot water can contain more lead than cold water.

  • In the long term it is advisable to replace any lead pipework. Details of qualified contractors available on the WaterSafe website ( who will be able to help with advice on replacement of pipework.

Important safety notice - Earthing electrical installations to metal water pipes

Please read this note carefully, especially if you intend to make repairs or alterations to your metal water service pipe, or if you have been notified that Affinity Water or others intend to carry out any work on your metal water service pipes.

There are dangers in using metal water pipes as the sole means of earthing your electrical system. We're replacing or relining the underground lead pipes in your street that supply your property. If you think your electrical system relies solely on a water pipe to provide an earth, then you should get an electrician to check your electrical system and, if necessary, provide another independent earth connection.

Affinity Water cannot accept any responsibility for a customer’s electrical installation and our staff are not qualified to give advice on electrical installations.

If you're not the owner of the property, and therefore not responsible for the earthing of the electrical installation, please notify the owner or appropriate person as soon as possible.

Find out more information about lead here.

What are we doing about it?

At our treatment works that supply areas where there are lead pipes, we have treatment that helps to reduce the amount of lead that dissolves into the water. The current standard for lead in drinking water is 10µg/l.

Where we find a lead concentration of a property that is greater than 5µg/l, we'll investigate and replace the communication pipe (the section of pipe from our main in the road to your property boundary). We'll also replace the communication pipe if it is constructed from lead if you replace your supply pipe (the section of pipe from the boundary into your property). Please let us know if you have replaced the supply pipe and we'll start investigating the communication pipe.

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