Lead and Copper Rule for Drinking Water
The State Water Board (through the Division of Drinking Water, DDW) enforces the Lead and Copper Rule, which follows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA’s) Lead and Copper Rule, and is used to protect the public’s drinking water from metals that can adversely affect public health. The Lead and Copper Rule requires water systems to monitor lead and copper levels at the consumers’ taps. If action levels for lead or copper are exceeded, installation or modifications to corrosion control treatment is required. If the action level for lead is exceeded, public notification is required.
California's Lead and Copper Rule begins with Section 64670 of Title 22, California Code of Regulations (see DDW’s Drinking Water Law Book for these regulations).
SB 1398 Lead Service Line Inventory Requirement
Information for Public Water Systems
Public water systems are required to provide information to their customers and consumers about the quality of their drinking water. This is commonly provided in water systems’ annual Consumer Confidence Reports. In February 2016, US EPA provided recommendations to enhance the implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule, to better communicate with water system consumers, and to clarify recommended tap sampling procedures (see below).
On March 7, 2016, DDW provided recommendations to California community water systems and nontransient noncommunity water systems about US EPA’s new recommendations to provide additional information to the public related to lead, particularly related to lead pipes or lead-containing fixtures.
Guidance from US EPA
In February 2016 and as mentioned above, US EPA, prompted by recent events in Flint, Michigan and other US cities, wrote states about the need to enhance at all levels of government the implementation and enforcement of drinking water regulations, including the Lead and Copper Rule. Included were specific recommendations on the need to address lead action level exceedances, to fully implement and enforce the Lead and Copper Rule, to enhance public transparency and public access to data and compliance information, and to leverage additional funding sources to address aging infrastructure needs.
In an accompanying memo, US EPA also clarified tap sampling procedures for the Lead and Copper Rule, with specific recommendations for removal and cleaning of aerators, pre-stagnation flushing, and sample bottle configuration. The memo includes a revised version of Suggested Directions for Homeowner Tap Sample Collection Procedures which is included below.
Memo from US EPA clarifying recommended tap sampling procedures for the Lead and Copper Rule; and the most recent version of the "Suggested Directions for Homeowners Tap Sample Collection Procedures" was last revised in May 2019.
Information about Health Risks associated with Exposures to Lead and Copper
The toxicity of lead has long been of concern, particularly considering that it may be present in many environments, including air, soil, water. Workplaces and consumer products are other potential sources of lead exposure. Regulations implemented by a number of state and federal agencies limit the amount of lead that can reach people through those various pathways.
Related to drinking water concerns, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA’s) technical support documents for public health goals (PHGs) include health risk evaluations for lead and copper.
Health information on lead in drinking water is also available from these federal agencies:
Questions about health concerns related to blood lead levels should be directed to the California Department of Public Health, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.