Lead plumbing

The water leaving our treatment works does not contain lead and none of the water mains are made of lead.

Lead can be picked up where it has been used for the service pipe that connects the water main to your property or where lead has been used for internal plumbing.

If you are concerned that you may have lead plumbing or would like the drinking water checked for lead, please telephone our Customer Services team on 0330 303 0368 (calls charged at local rate) and we will arrange to take a water sample for analysis, free of charge.

Using lead pipes 

If you have lead pipes, do not drink water that has been lying in the pipes overnight. First thing in the morning run the tap for about one minute but try not to waste the water. 

Instead fill a washing-up bowl and use the water in your garden or for some other purpose. You will need to run the tap for longer if your tap is more than 50m from the main. 

As a guide, 10m of pipe holds 1.2 litres of water. Ensure that the cold kitchen tap is fed directly from the main. 

Only use this water for drinking or food preparation and not water from the hot or other cold taps.

Properties built before 1970 may have lead pipes. Those built after 1970 are unlikely to have lead pipes

Checking your pipes

Even if your home has no lead pipework it is still worth checking that the pipe running from the boundary of your property to the stoptap inside your home is not lead.

You may be able to see the end of the incoming pipe connecting to your internal stoptap.

If there is no lead pipework you will see either:

  • Copper (hard, bright or dull brown)
  • Iron (very hard, dark grey or rusty)
  • Polyethylene (coloured blue, black or grey).

Lead pipes are usually about 25mm (1 inch) in diameter and usually have a rounded swollen joint where they connect to the stoptap or meet other lead pipes.

Unpainted pipes are soft and dull grey but show the shiny metal beneath when scraped gently.

The water main in the road and the 'communication' pipe to the boundary of your property is our responsibility. You're responsible for the 'supply' pipe under your garden and into your house.

What we'll do

We'll carry out the following if you find lead pipework:

  • If you choose to replace all the pipework inside and outside your home, we will replace any lead on our pipework back to the main free of charge
  • If, when checking for lead in water, analysis shows a concentration greater than the required standard, we will replace any lead present in our pipework and advise you regarding your own plumbing
  • If your external supply pipe is leaking and is lead, we will replace up to 10 metres free of charge.

Presently the maximum concentration for lead in drinking water is 10 µg/l (micrograms per litre)

Replacing pipework

The permanent solution is to replace all lead pipework. The use of lead solder or lead pipes is now prohibited even for repairs.

Lead solder should never be use with copper pipes for drinking water and copper and lead pipes should never be mixed because this causes lead to dissolve more quickly.

If lead pipework is replaced, especially when a non-metallic alternative is used, the electrical earthing for your home should be checked by a qualified electrician because, in the past many homes have been earthed through the incoming supply pipe.

Phosphate dosing (treatment to prevent lead dissolving in pipework) is installed at around 50 sites throughout the region.