Lead in Drinking Water

Excerpt from infographicIt’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, and today’s WatchBlog explores our recent report and video on lead in drinking water and federal efforts to help ensure drinking water is safe from lead.

Our recent video explains how lead can enter drinking water, and what you can do to reduce your risks.

The Lead and Copper Rule

No level of lead is safe in drinking water. Lead accumulates in the body over time, causing long-lasting effects, particularly for children and pregnant women. Given how damaging lead is to the human body,  what’s being done to keep it out of your drinking water?

The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule requires  the monitoring of drinking water at people’s taps and—if lead levels are too high—requires water systems to take action to control corrosion, inform the public, and (in some cases) replace lead pipes. Implementing all aspects of the rule is a group effort, with the EPA, states, water systems, and homeowners all having a role to play.

Figure 3: Typical Responsibilities of Key Stakeholders in Implementing the Lead and Copper Rule

(Excerpted from GAO-17-424)

So how’s it working?

Although the rule requires water systems to test in high-risk areas near lead pipes, many lead pipe locations are unknown. Among other things, we recommended that the EPA collect data on lead pipes to improve its oversight of the rule.

Find out more in our full report, and check out our related infographic—which delves a bit deeper into the issue, and how the government could better oversee the Lead and Copper Rule.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Alfredo Gómez at gomezj@gao.gov.
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