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Virtual Community Meeting Follow-Up: FAQs

The following is a summary of questions received during the meetings and responses from Denver Water. Vea el resumen de las preguntas y respuestas de las reuniones virtuales con la comunidad en español.

Service Line Replacement

Where can I find the map of areas you are working in 2020?

Denver Water is replacing lead service lines on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, factoring in those who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, underserved areas and planned construction activities. Download the 2020 work areas map.

If we want to replace the service lines ourselves, is there any reimbursement for it?

Yes, a partial reimbursement is available. Property owners that meet some basic criteria are eligible to apply for Denver Water’s Lead Service Line Replacement Partial Reimbursement Program. Your application must be approved before replacing your service line. After the service line is replaced, Denver Water will inspect the new line and set the meter. Once inspections are complete, Denver Water will mail you a one-time reimbursement payment of $3,800, which covers some of the total cost. 

When will my lead service line be replaced?

By the fall of each year, Denver Water plans to have identified work areas for the following year. Several factors drive when and where service lines are replaced. Denver Water prioritizes communities who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, particularly infants and children. Areas with large numbers of facilities that serve these populations, such as schools and daycares, are prioritized. Other determining factors include areas with the highest concentration of lead service lines, underserved neighborhoods and coordination with other known construction activity.

Once work areas are identified, Denver Water will determine the timing for individual properties in that work area. Once a property has been identified for a service line replacement, Denver Water will send additional information about the replacement process and next steps. This notification typically comes a month or two before the anticipated replacement date.

Will our yards and landscaping be torn up for the replacement?

To minimize disturbances as much as possible, Denver Water’s contractors and crews are deploying a trenchless technology to replace lead service lines wherever this method is feasible. This method only requires two excavations; one in the street connected to the Denver Water watermain and a second around your water meter pit. Water meters may be located inside or outside of your property. Both excavation sites will be restored upon completion of the lead service line replacement. During the pre-construction meeting at your home, the team will walk through the specific plan for your property and any associated impacts.

What is the replacement process for my lead service line?

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Service Line Replacement timeline

Denver Water will send an initial letter to inform you that your property has been identified for an upcoming lead service line replacement. This letter will include a consent form to sign, which allows Denver Water crews to access your property and replace your service line.

After we receive the signed consent form, an in-home visit will be scheduled for you, Denver Water and the contractor to review the replacement process in detail and set a date and time for the work to take place. Most service lines can be replaced within four to eight hours. An adult over the age of 18 must be present during the replacement work since crews will need to inspect the service line connection inside your home. 

Following replacement, Denver Water will restore the landscaping exterior to a level surface and provide reseeding of grass, generally within a four-month time frame.

Approximately four months after your replacement, you will be offered a water quality testing kit to verify that lead levels have been reduced. Denver Water encourages you to use your filter for six months after the service line replacement and flush your water (run cold water from the kitchen or bathroom faucet for five minutes after not using water in the home for a few hours).

How is Denver Water prioritizing lead service lines for replacement?

Several factors will drive when and where we replace service lines. Denver Water is prioritizing communities who are most vulnerable and at-risk from lead exposure, particularly infants and children. Areas with large numbers of facilities that serve these populations, such as schools and daycares, will be prioritized. Other determining factors are areas with the highest concentration of lead service lines, underserved neighborhoods and coordination with other known construction activity. 

Is there a way for homeowners to tell by visual inspection if their service line is lead or not? Can I look and see if it is copper into or out of the meter and would that tell me anything?

Identifying the material of a service line can be challenging as plumbing codes vary and different pipe material and fittings were used during different decades. The materials available today were not necessarily available decades ago.

While a visual inspection of the service line where it connects to your water meter can provide some insight, it doesn’t indicate what other materials may be used in other sections of the service line buried underground. Denver Water may still need to conduct investigations to confirm that no sections of your service line contain lead.

Who is covering the cost of the program for customers?

Denver Water will replace customer-owned lead service lines and provide filters to customers until their lead service line can be replaced at no direct charge to the customer. The cost will be covered through water rates, bonds, new service fees and hydropower generation, which is in line with other large capital improvement projects undertaken regularly by Denver Water. We’ll also be looking into additional funding through loans, grants and contributions from partners.

If we've had our water main replaced 4-5 years ago, do we still have lead concerns?

The Lead Reduction Program is focused on identifying and replacing customer-owned lead service lines. The service line brings water into your home from the water main in the street. A water main replacement does not guarantee that your service line is not made of lead. To determine whether or not you have a lead service line, Denver Water will need to conduct an investigation using a combination of property and assessor records, water tap dates, water quality tests and/or visual inspections of the service line.

I know that my service line has been replaced with copper is there still a lead issue?

If the full service line is copper, it is still possible for lead-containing household fixtures and plumbing to elevate lead levels in your water. Learn more about sources of lead in drinking water. The water provided by Denver Water to homes and businesses is lead-free, but lead can get into the water as it moves through lead-containing household fixtures, plumbing and water service lines — the pipe that brings water into the home from the main in the street — that are owned by the customer.

Denver Water will conduct an investigation before removing any property from the program. We complete investigations in order to gather additional information and data so that we are confident in removing a property from the program. The investigation may consist of a water quality test, additional analysis of available records, interior inspections of the pipe in the home and/or exterior inspection of the pipe between the home and the main delivery pipe in the street. Once we have completed our investigation process and are able to confirm whether or not you should be included in the program, we will send you a letter of the results.
 

A lot of the buildings here are commercial buildings, are those service lines also being replaced?

Commercial establishments will also have lead service lines replaced through the Lead Reduction Program. Any property in Denver Water’s service area with a lead service line will have the service line replaced within the 15-year program.

How many lead service lines have you replaced so far? How many will you do per year? How can we keep track of the progress being made in the Lead Reduction Program?

You can track the progress of the Lead Reduction Program, including lead service line replacements, through the Key Metrics Dashboard. As of September 2020, Denver Water has replaced 3,721 lead service lines. The annual target for lead service line replacement is 4,477 per year. 

How did Denver Water determine which houses were “likely to have lead service lines” or “unlikely to have lead service lines”?

Because homeowners, not Denver Water, own service lines, data on what they are made of is inconsistent and scattered among a variety of sources. So, Denver Water has been consolidating a combination of property records (homes built before 1951 are most likely to have lead service lines), water quality tests and visual inspection of service lines in order to develop a comprehensive inventory of known and suspected lead service lines. View Denver Water’s inventory map

We remodeled our house originally built in 1950. I think we replaced the service line in the remodel. Is it helpful to provide this information to Denver Water?

Documentation from the remodel, specifically as it relates to your service line, may be helpful to Denver Water as it conducts lead service line investigations in your area. Please contact Denver Water Customer Care at 303-893-2444 or email us at [email protected] to share these records and have relevant information added to your account.

Why will it take 15 years to complete the program? Can’t you do it quicker?

Denver Water has been replacing lead service lines for the last few years as these customer-owned lines are discovered during the course of our regular, routine maintenance work on the system. Lead service lines are also replaced as property owners choose to redevelop their properties or replace their old service lines. 

About 1,200 lead service lines were replaced every year through these efforts, indicating it would take several decades to replace the estimated 64,000 to 84,000 lead service lines in Denver Water’s service area. This estimate is based on extensive investigations Denver Water is conducting to identify lead service lines, which to date have been challenging to locate given inconsistent, scattered information because they are owned by each property owner, not Denver Water.

Through the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water is able to accelerate the pace of replacing customer-owned lead service lines at no direct cost to the customer. Rather than taking several decades to complete this effort, the Lead Reduction Program will replace these lead service lines in 15 years.

Denver Water is currently working to update our online maps to indicate work locations for the Lead Reduction Program as well as other Denver Water construction. Please sign up for our monthly newsletter to find out when these changes are live on our website.

We are committed to improving the process used to determine where to complete work on an annual basis. Because of our commitment to incorporate lessons from our current work into future planning, we are unable to estimate timing beyond the current calendar year.

Denver Water also is piloting a program to help customers who choose to replace their lead service lines at their own expense. Approved applicants can receive a one-time partial reimbursement payment of $3,800. Please review information on our website on the process to replace the lead service line and the application for a partial reimbursement. Note that lines replaced prior to the program’s launch on April 29, 2020, are not eligible for partial reimbursement.

Are new builds/re-builds required to make sure there is no lead in the water service line?

Denver Water’s scrape-off/redevelopment policy aims to ensure new developments and remodels are up to current standards and regulations, which mitigates the risk of lead exposure in drinking water for future residents. The following resources have more information on this policy:

I'm confused. I'm thinking the “Service Line" connects the main in the street into the home. Isn't there a water meter in between the two? And if so, is the "Service Line" before or after the meter?

Water mains, water meters, service lines — it can be confusing! The primary source of lead in drinking water is customer-owned lead service lines, the pipe that brings water from the water main in the street to the plumbing in the home.

There is a dividing point between Denver Water-owned mains and service lines that are the responsibility of the property owner. That dividing point is where the customer-owned service line taps, or connects, into the main. At this dividing point, water leaves the public system and enters a privately-owned service line that serves an individual premises. The service line is owned by the property owner and installed at their expense.

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Service line

Property owners also are responsible for their water meters and the meter pits where the meter is located. The water meter may be located inside or outside of a property and is connected to the service line. See more information about property owner responsibility.

Filters and Filter Use

I believe I am enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program, but I never received a filter. How can I get one?

Water pitchers, filters and replacement filters are geographically distributed over a number of weeks. To confirm whether or not you are enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program, please check out our lead service line inventory map. If your property is identified as “Confirmed” or “Likely” to have a lead service line and you have not received a water pitcher and filter, please contact Customer Care at 303-893-2444 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email us at [email protected].

What about tenants? Or someone living in a multi-unit building? Can they get pitchers and filters directly or do they have to go through their landlord?

Denver Water is sending a pitcher, filter and replacement filters directly to customers living in all properties enrolled in the program. If the property you currently live in is enrolled, but you did not receive a pitcher or filter, please contact Customer Care at 303-893-2444 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email us at [email protected]. As the program moves forward, we will also be working with leasing offices to ensure new tenants have pitchers and filters.

Does boiling water help remove lead?

Heating or boiling water does not remove lead. The best way to reduce your risk of lead exposure is to use a filter certified to remove lead for drinking water, preparing infant formula or cooking. If you have a lead service line, Denver Water is providing you with a certified filter for these purposes. We also recommend that you flush your water after not using the water in the home for a few hours (run cold water from the kitchen or bathroom faucet for five minutes).

Do I need to use filtered water for all my watering needs?

Certified filters should be used for drinking water, preparing infant formula or in the preparation of any food where water is a base ingredient or absorbed into the food (recipes like rice, beans and soup). It is fine to use non-filtered water for all other uses (e.g., showering, bathing, laundry, irrigation, dishwashing, brushing teeth, etc.). 

I am already using a Brita water filter at home. Will this suffice?

There are a lot of different water filters out there. Denver Water is distributing Brita water filters certified to NSF Standard 53 to remove lead. We recommend you check NSF’s guide to certified filtration devices to confirm whether your filter is certified to remove lead. 

Is my water safe for pets?

To be safe, check with your veterinarian and/or give your pet filtered water. Changes in pet behavior as a result of drinking lead‐contaminated water are not likely to be noticeable. In general, pets are more likely to obtain lead as a result of eating an object containing much higher lead levels (such as lead paint chips, improperly glazed ceramic food or water bowl). If you are concerned about your pet, you can provide them with filtered drinking water.

Is it safe to use unfiltered water for gardens if they include fruits and vegetables that will be eaten?

It is safe to use unfiltered water on your garden vegetables. Plants and vegetables have tissues that serve as a natural filtration system which prevent them from picking up any traces of lead. For more information on other potential sources of lead in the home, please visit the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s website.

Is my water safe to use for a shower or bath? Is my water safe to use for teeth-brushing?

Yes. Bathing and showering are safe for you and your children. Human skin does not absorb lead in water at levels that cause a health concern. Be sure to avoid swallowing a large amount of water when brushing teeth.

My pitcher/filter was broken in the mail.

If you received a broken pitcher or filter, please contact Customer Care at 303-893-2444 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email us at [email protected].

Is it safe to consume water and ice filtered by my refrigerator?

There are many options for filters, and your refrigerator may have a built-in filter and ice maker. You should only use a filter that is certified to NSF Standard 53 to remove lead for any water you consume, including ice. Denver Water is distributing pitcher filters with this certification. For guidance on how to see if your refrigerator filter is certified to remove lead, see NSF International’s guide to certified filtration devices

How effective are the water filters that were sent out? What percentage of lead do they remove?

As part of the lead reduction program, Denver Water is providing free water filters that are certified by the NSF to reduce lead by up to 99%. There is no filter available today that removes 100% of lead from drinking water. 

The “replace filter” indicator light on my filter is lit. What should I do?

With typical residential use, the average life expectancy of the filter sent out by Denver Water is six months. Denver Water sends out replacement filters to all customers enrolled in the program before the six-month period is over. If your filter indicator says it is time to replace your filter before you have received your replacement filter, please contact Customer Care at 303-893-2444 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email us at [email protected].

Is it OK to fill the pitcher past the bottom of the filter?

Denver Water is distributing Brita water pitchers and filters to reduce the risk of lead in drinking water. These pitchers and filters feature a MAX FILL line. Brita recommends that users should avoid filling above the MAX FILL line. The purpose of this line is to help you avoid overfilling the reservoir, which can cause water to spill into the handle and leak out of the pitcher. See more information on Brita filter use.

My children drink water from our hoses outside. Is that dangerous for them?

If you are enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program, filtered water should always be used for drinking (including making tea and coffee). It is fine to use non-filtered water from the hose or other sources for all other uses (such watering plants or grass).

I have my own water filter and don’t need one from Denver Water. How can I be removed from Denver Water’s filter program?

Please verify that your water filter, whether it’s under your sink, part of your refrigerator, or some other kind of filter, is certified to remove lead. Use a filter certified to NSF Standard 53 for lead removal for drinking and cooking, especially if you are pregnant or have children under age 6. 

If you would still like to opt out from receiving filter replacements, please contact Denver Water Customer Care at 303-893-2444 or email us at [email protected] so we can update our records and remove you from receiving replacement cartridges in the future.

If I run the water until it is "cold" can I use it for cooking rice, beans, soup, etc.?

While hot water often contains higher levels of lead than cold water, the best way to reduce your risk of lead exposure is to use a filter certified to remove lead for drinking water, preparing infant formula and for cooking. As part of the lead reduction program, Denver Water is providing free water filters that are certified by the NSF to reduce lead by up to 99%. If you are using a different filter, ensure that it is certified to NSF Standard 53 for lead removal for drinking and cooking, especially if you are pregnant or have children under age 6.

Denver Water recommends that customers store filtered water in an extra container, so it’s ready to use when you’re ready to cook or make infant formula.

In addition to using your water pitcher and filter, Denver Water recommends that if water has not been used in the home for a few hours, such as first thing in the morning or when getting home from work, then run cold water from the kitchen or any bathroom faucet for five minutes (you can capture the water and reuse it for gardening, washing your car, etc.). You can also run the dishwasher, take a shower or do a load of laundry to help flush out water in your internal plumbing before drinking, cooking or preparing infant formula.

Water Quality and Safety

How do I figure out the lead levels in my house and how concerned should I be?

Denver Water offers free water quality tests for lead that will help you identify if your residence (single-family and multiunit, up to four units) has a lead service line or household plumbing fixtures that contain lead. You can request a test online or by calling 303-893-2444. If your residence has been identified on the inventory map as having a known or suspected lead service line you are enrolled in the Lead Reduction Program and do not need to request a test.

Having a lead service line doesn’t necessarily mean you have elevated levels of lead in your water. But a lead water service line can contribute to higher levels of lead exposure, which can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body — whether from drinking water or other sources. Over the years, including as part of the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water has raised the pH of drinking water, which makes the water less corrosive. This change also strengthens an existing protective coating on the interior of the pipe. The coating reduces the likelihood of lead getting into the water as it passes through customer-owned water service lines, household plumbing and faucets that contain lead.

For more information on other potential sources of lead in your house, please see Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s webpage on common sources of lead
 

Should I be tested, or should I get my children tested for lead poisoning?

If you are concerned about your health, please contact your primary care physician. Your local public health agency may also be able to help. The Colorado Department of Health & Environment offers advice when considering if you or your children should be tested for lead. CDPHE has also produced a lead screening guide for parents and guardians

How do I interpret lead test results? What does it mean if a value is >1 μg/L?

Customers who have sent water samples in for testing as a part of the Lead Reduction Program will receive a letter listing the water quality results. The letter will indicate whether the levels of lead in the water are less than 1 μg/L (<1 μg/L) or at or above 1 μg/L (>1 μg/L). The measurement μg/L is micrograms per liter and is also known as parts per billion (ppb).

If the result is less than 1 μg/L, it is unlikely that your service line or internal plumbing contain lead. 
If the result is at or above 1 μg/L, which is shown in the letter as >1 ug/L, there is a likelihood that your internal plumbing and/or service line may contain lead. If your lead service line has already been replaced, lead debris may have entered your service line during the replacement process.

If your test results indicate lead levels at or above 1 μg/L, and your lead service line has not yet been replaced, then please continue to use the water pitcher and filter provided through the Lead Reduction Program for drinking, cooking and preparing infant formula until six months after the lead service line is replaced with a new, lead-free copper line.

If Denver Water has completed a lead service line replacement at your property and you receive a result that is at or above 1 μg/L with the new, lead-free copper line in place, we recommend that you do the following:

  • Continue to flush the water at your property and remove and clean the aerators on your faucets, as they may trap lead particles from the plumbing and service line. 
  • Replace faucets and indoor plumbing with “lead-free” components.

For more information related to your specific testing results, please contact Denver Water Customer Care at 303-893-2444 or email us at [email protected]

What is Denver Water adding to the water to make the pH level higher?

Denver Water has been and continues using sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda, to raise the pH of the water. This inorganic compound also is used to make soap and paper.

If Denver Water is changing the pH of the water being delivered to our homes what effect does that have on the irrigation of our plants and trees?

Denver Water has been and continues working with irrigation and landscape experts locally and nationwide to learn more about potential impacts from the pH increase. It is important to recognize that water pH and soil pH, while related, are different.

The feedback we’re hearing so far, from scientists and experts in other cities where the water has a higher pH level, is that in general there should not be any major impacts on plants and landscapes, especially when best management practices are used. For example, when sprinklers are used to irrigate, pH levels in the water drop as the water is exposed to carbon dioxide in the air. Partners are also looking into soil amendments for trees to account for pH adjustments.

Denver Water continues to work with partners in Colorado and around the U.S. to learn more about their experiences with higher pH levels. Several utilities, including one in the Denver-metro area, have been operating within this pH range for many years, and we are hopeful the information they have will provide a valuable resource for our community and our partners. As new information becomes available, Denver Water will update these FAQs. 

Regarding nonpotable recycled water used for irrigation purposes: The recycled water provided by Denver Water via purple pipes and used in cooling towers and for irrigation purposes remains safe for intended purposes. This water has been cleaned twice, once at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District facility and a second time at Denver Water’s Recycling Plant. The change in pH levels is not expected to significantly affect the quality of the water produced. 

More information about Denver Water’s recycled water program is available here

What about trees?

Denver Water recognizes that trees provide benefits to the community. It will be important in coming decades that the community as a whole look at the health of our urban canopy in a holistic manner, taking into account factors such as climate change, variability in precipitation, disease and water quality, including the change in pH. We have been and will continue taking steps to work on these issues in partnership with experts in the landscape industry, academia and public parks and forestry departments. 

Since 2013, Denver Water has participated in a research study on trees and soil health, partnering with the Denver Parks Department and Colorado State University to monitor tree tissue health and water quality impacts on soil. This monitoring program takes place at more than 300 sites across our service area. The study’s most recent report can be found here

This ongoing research effort will provide Denver Water, our partners and the public with information on a range of issues affecting our city’s landscapes. We will continue these partnerships and studies to help landscape and tree experts develop and implement best management practices.

Technical Information 

The chart below provides information on projected changes in Denver Water’s water chemistry, based on the years of study that took place before the Lead Reduction Program was approved. Note, this information is about water quality only, and as such is not indicative of changes that may or may not occur in soil irrigated with Denver’s water.

The chart below reflects the range of actual water quality measurements in Denver Water’s system prior to the March 2020 increase in pH and the projected ranges following the increase. While this information is specific to water, it may be helpful to experts evaluating other factors influencing plant health, such as soil.

pH AND WATER QUALITY CHANGES

 

pH Target

Sodium (mg/L)

Alkalinity
Calcium (mg/L)

Magnesium (mg/L)

Previous 7.8 8-19 14-27 3-7
Current 8.8 13-23 21-27 3-7
Change 1 4-5 0-7 0

Regarding sodium levels indicated on the chart, the Environmental Protection Agency since 2003 has recommended utilities reduce sodium levels to between 30 milligrams per liter and 60 milligrams per liter to avoid being perceived as tasting “salty.” Denver Water’s sodium levels have been below those levels and are projected to remain so. 

Denver Water also is sharing this water quality information with soil and plant experts who can use their expertise to offer guidance on potential best management practices. 

My water tested positive but a neighbor's tested negative. Why? Is it possible that only some of us have lead service lines?

There are several reasons why you and your neighbor may receive different water quality test results. Because property owners, not Denver Water, own water service lines, information on what they are made of is inconsistent and scattered among a variety of sources. So, it is possible that there are variances in service line material among properties, even if they are within the same neighborhood.

The greatest source of lead in drinking water is lead service lines, however lead can also enter the water from internal plumbing and fixtures. The potential for lead to get into drinking water also can vary home to home, even in the same neighborhood. To determine whether a service line contains lead, Denver Water may need to conduct investigations, including a review of property records (homes built before 1951 are more likely to have service lines that contain lead), water quality tests and/or a visual inspection of the service line.

What is the actual lead level you’re seeing in this area now vs. EPA standards? In 2012 you exceeded 15 parts per billion. Do you know what we are at now?

The most recent study conducted by Denver Water and approved by CDPHE resulted in water quality samples at 6.7 parts per billion (ppb). Through the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water has taken steps to reduce lead levels in customers’ taps. In addition to removing lead service lines, we have also increased pH to reduce the corrosivity of the water. This reduces the risk of lead getting into drinking water as it passes through lead containing pipes and householder fixtures.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), the EPA requires public drinking water systems to test the tap water from homes within their distribution system that are likely to have high lead levels. These are usually homes with lead service lines or lead solder. The EPA rule requires that nine out of 10, or 90%, of the sampled homes must have lead levels that are below the action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb). The action level is an indicator that a utility may need to adjust its water treatment to reduce its corrosivity to help minimize the risk of lead getting into drinking water from lead pipes and plumbing in customer homes and buildings.

Property owners who participate in this study collect a sample in accordance with EPA sample collection criteria and send it to Denver Water’s state-certified laboratory for testing. Study samples are held to a tight protocol and once analyzed may not be invalidated without justifiable cause and consensus with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

In 2012, water quality sample results from homes with known lead service lines and plumbing exceeded the level the EPA requires for taking action (15 ppb). Denver Water has not exceeded this action level since 2012. Lead levels are routinely reported in Denver Water’s annual Water Quality Report.

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Lead and copper rule results through 2020

How are you partnering with schools in the areas where lead may be present to get the word out?

Denver Water has identified a critical customer list including public and private schools to address any possible lead service lines at the school location. Additionally, Denver Water partners with schools and a wide variety of community organizations to help get the word out. If you are part of an organization that wants to help spread the word, please contact us at [email protected] and we’ll reach out with more information.