Getting the Lead Out
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. Denver Water estimates there are 64,000-84,000 properties that may have lead service lines in its service area. The Lead Reduction Program will replace customer-owned lead service lines with copper service lines at no direct charge to the customer.
- 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, Denver Water has been developing a comprehensive inventory of known and suspected lead services lines using a combination of property records (homes built before 1951 are more likely to have lead service lines in Denver Water’s experience), water quality tests and visual inspections of service lines.
- Through the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water is accelerating the pace of replacing customer-owned lead service lines at no direct cost to the customer. When initially launched, all lead service lines were slated to be removed by 2035.
- As of December 2022, newly awarded federal funding allows the Lead Reduction Program to be accelerated and completed in less time. For every 4,500 additional lead service lines replaced using these funds, the overall length of the program will be one year shorter.
- Denver Water is also replacing lead service lines when discovered during pipe replacement work or other projects.
- We are working 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.
- In addition to prioritizing geographic areas, we are also prioritizing individual properties throughout the city that serve large numbers of at-risk individuals, such as schools and daycare facilities.
Preparing for replacement
Denver Water will send you an initial letter informing you that your property has been identified for an upcoming lead service line replacement. This letter will include a consent form for you to sign, allowing our crews to access your property and replace your service line.
After we receive your signed consent form, we’ll schedule an in-home visit with you 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 in less than six hours. An adult over the age of 18 must be present during the replacement work as crews will need to inspect connections inside your home.
You will also be included in the Filter Program. Denver Water will provide a water pitcher, filter and replacement filters certified to remove lead to use until six months after your service line is replaced.
Water service line replacement timeline
This is the sequence of events for an upcoming water service line replacement. The steps are explained in detail in this booklet.
Service line sections before and after replacement
Service line replacement process techniques
To see service line sections before and after replacement, and process techniques in Spanish please see the service line replacement information section on our Resource Materials page.
When will you be replacing my lead service line?
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.
Outside of the Lead Reduction Program, Denver Water will also replace any customer-owned lead service line with a copper water line, at no direct charge to the customer, when discovered during a main replacement project.
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.
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.
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.
Where can I find the map of areas you are working in this year?
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.
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 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.
Are there loans, grants or other funds available to me to pay for my service line replacement?
Grants and low-interest loans are available for lead service line replacement. For more information and to find out if you qualify, contact Denver Urban Renewal Authority at 303-534-3872, or call the city’s 311 hotline.
What is the replacement process for my lead service line?
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.