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Sources and History of Lead in Drinking Water


What is lead?

Lead, a naturally occurring, silvery blue, soft and malleable metal, has been a part of human society for thousands of years. Lead is in all parts of our environment — the air, soil and our homes. Today, scientists and society are more aware than in the past of the dangers posed by the use of lead in paint, gasoline, pottery and more. In the water industry, concerns about lead pipes have evolved over decades.

What about lead in drinking water?

Denver Water provides lead-free water to homes and businesses; however, 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 water main in the street — that are owned by the customer.

The primary source of lead in drinking water is water service lines that contain lead, and homes built before 1951 are more likely to have lead service lines. Other sources of lead in drinking water in Denver Water’s service area include:

  • Copper pipes connected with solder made of lead, common before 1987. Solder can be used anywhere in the house, from fixtures to service lines.
  • Brass faucets and faucet parts, like fittings and valves. Fixtures installed before 2014 are likely to contain some brass, even if they have a chrome finish.

If you suspect your home has lead in the plumbing.

Take these steps to minimize exposure:

  • Use a filter certified to remove lead (look for NSF Standard 53) for drinking, cooking and making infant formula. Replace the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Note: Households part of the Lead Reduction Program receive a water pitcher and replacement filters at no charge.
  • Boiling the water does not remove lead and hot water often contains higher levels of lead than cold water.
  • 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, run an inside faucet for five minutes (remember to capture the water and reuse it). You can also run the dishwasher, take a shower, or do a load of laundry to help flush water in your internal plumbing before drinking or cooking.
  • Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator). View step-by-step instructions.
  • Replace pre-2014 faucets with new lead-free options.

Have more questions about the Lead Reduction Program?

We have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions about the program.

Frequently asked questions