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Where does it come from?

The water that leaves our treatment works and passes through our distribution network is virtually free of lead. However, in some areas, certain pipes might be made of lead. For example, the pipe that takes water to a home and also your internal plumbing.

How it could affect you

Awareness of lead and it’s impact on health has increased in recent years. It has more of an effect on foetuses and young children. This awareness has led to many campaigns which significantly reduce lead in our environment, such as unleaded petrol and lead-free paints. Therefore, it’s important that we reduce exposure to lead as much as possible, including in our drinking water.

How to check for lead pipes

First things first, do you know when your home was built? If it was built before 1970, you may have lead pipes in your plumbing system.

To check your pipes, it’s best to start where the water supply enters your house. This is typically where your internal stopcock is located (click here to see how to find this).

Lead pipes are normally dark grey in colour, but if gently scraped, shiny silver-coloured marks appear. They are generally thicker than other metallic pipe materials and is also easier to scratch using a coin. If you're unsure, ask an approved plumber to carry out this check for you.

If your water supply does come through lead pipework, it is advisable to run the water for a minute before using it for drinking or cooking purposes. In the long term, we would advise you to line or replace any lead pipework.

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.

We are also undertaking programmes of targeted replacement or lining of lead pipes in our network, with the backing of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and our regulator, Ofwat. Click the link below to find out about our lead pipe replacement programme.

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