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Lead and Copper Rule
Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage.
In 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). Since 1991 the LCR has undergone various revisions, see the Rule History section below.
Everyone can take part in the reduction of lead and copper in drinking water. While the LCR rule applies to water utilities, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act sets standards for:
- plumbing fittings,
- and flux
for maximum allowable lead levels. Consumers can also take Actions You Can Take To Reduce Lead in Drinking Water(PDF)(4 pp, 567 K, About PDF) EPA 810-F-93-001
The treatment technique for the rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.
If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.
EPA is considering Long-Term Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule to improve public health protection by making substantive changes and to streamline the rule requirements.
In 2007, EPA revised the Lead and Copper Rule to enhance implementation in the areas of monitoring, treatment, customer awareness, and lead service line replacement. The update also enhanced public education requirements and ensured drinking water consumers receive:
- and useful information
needed to help them limit their exposure to lead in drinking water. These changes are also known as the “Short-Term Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule.”
- Federal Register Notice - Final Rule, October 10, 2007 (PDF)(39 pp, 340 K, About PDF)
- 2007 Fact Sheet: Revisions to Regulations Controlling Lead in Drinking Water (PDF)(4 pp, 175 K, About PDF) EPA 815-F-07-003
- Economic and Supporting Analyses: Short-Term Regulatory Changes to the Lead and Copper Rule (PDF)(191 pp, 556 K, About PDF) EPA 815-R-07-022, September 2007
In 2004, EPA published minor corrections to the LCR to reinstate text that was inadvertently dropped from the rule during previous revisions.
- June 29, 2004 - National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Minor Corrections and Clarification to Drinking Water Regulations; National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for Lead and Copper (PDF)(10 pp, 202 K, About PDF).
In 2000, EPA published revisions to the LCR to address implementation issues arising from legal challenges to the 1991 rule. The revisions also streamlined and reduced monitoring and reporting burden.
- Federal Register Notice of Final Rule, January 12, 2000(PDF)(66 pp, 497 K, About PDF)
- Lead and Copper Rule Minor Revisions: Fact Sheet (PDF)(3 pp, 31 K, About PDF) EPA 815-F-99-010, December 1999
- 1998 Notice of Data Availability on the minor revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule
- Fact Sheets supporting the 2000 revisions
- LCR Minor Revisions Fact Sheet for Public Water Systems that Serve more than 50,000 Persons (PDF)(10 pp, 450 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-00-009, February 2001
- LCR Minor Revisions Fact Sheet for Public Water Systems that serve 3301-50000 Persons (PDF)(9 pp, 528 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-00-008, February 2001
- LCR Minor Revisions Fact Sheet for Public Water Systems that serve 3300 or fewer Persons (PDF)(10 pp, 839 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-00-007, March 2000
- LCR Minor Revisions Fact Sheet for Tribal Water System Owners and Operators (PDF)(9 pp, 355 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-00-010, February 2001
- Using DWSRF Set-Aside Funds for Capacity Development (PDF)(2 pp, 27 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-00-11, March 2000
In 1991, EPA published the LCR to minimize lead and copper in drinking water. The rule replaced the previous standard of 50 ppb, measured at the entry point to the distribution system.
The rule established a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for lead in drinking water and a treatment technique to reduce corrosion of lead and copper within the distribution system.
Quick Reference Guides
These documents provide a simple and straightforward description of the Rule. It includes deadlines and requirements for public water systems (PWSs) and states, and information on monitoring requirements.
- Lead and Copper Rule: A Revised Quick Reference Guide (PDF)(2 pp, 125 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-08-018, June 2008
- Lead and Copper Rule: A Quick Reference Guide for Schools and Child Care Facilities that Are Regulated Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (PDF)(5 pp, 546 K, About PDF) EPA 816-F-05-030, October 2005
For commonly asked questions pertaining to the LCR, see the following two fact sheets:
- Commonly Asked Questions: Section 1417 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the NSF Standard
- Consumer Factsheet on Lead in Drinking Water
You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more. If you need help accessing these PDF documents below, please contact EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
EPA provides guidance documents to help states and public water systems (PWSs) implement the Lead and Copper Rule. The materials below can assist in complying with requirements of the Rule.
- Compliance Help for Primacy Agencies (States, Tribes, and EPA Regions)
- Compliance Help for Public Water Systems
EPA has also developed background information and guidance materials regarding lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities.