Lead & Copper in Water

Madison's ground water supply does not contain significant amounts of naturally occurring lead or copper. The corrosive nature of water, however, can dissolve or corrode lead and copper through water contact with water service lines, interior pipes and plumbing fixtures.

Therefore, it is important for property owners to determine if these metals exist within the premise plumbing and, if they do, their effect on the quality of the water. All privately-owned plumbing systems and water-related appliances are the responsibility of the property owner to service and maintain.

Replacing Lead Water Service Lines

Madison was the first major city in the country to launch a full Lead Service Replacement Program. Since 2000, Madison Water Utility has worked to replace all known lead water service lines in the city -- more than 8,000 in all -- with much safer copper.

Although the successful program has largely been completed, lead services are still occasionally discovered, usually when a property changes hands. If you have a lead water service, you may be eligible to receive a rebate covering half the cost of replacement up to $1,500. Call our general administrative number at (608) 266-4651 or email water@madisonwater.org for more information.

Replacing Lead Service Graphic

Lead-Containing Plumbing Fixtures 

Lead can also be found in interior pipes (rare) and some plumbing fixtures (more common). If you are concerned that your plumbing system may be adding lead to your water, you should have the water tested by a certified drinking water laboratory. Proper sampling is required to obtain a valid result and it is recommended that you collect at least two samples: one stagnant water sample, taken after water has sat within the system overnight or while away from the home during the day, and a second flowing water sample, taken after normal water use. (Note: A single test for lead level in drinking water may not be representative of the level at all times or of the average level over time.)

You can contact one of the following certified drinking water labs for additional information on recommended sampling procedures, pricing, and to obtain sample kits:

  • WI State Lab of Hygiene, 2601 Agriculture Drive, Madison, WI 53707, Call (608) 224-6202 or visit www.slh.wisc.edu for more information
  • Public Health Madison & Dane County, 2300 S. Park Street #2010, Madison, WI 53713, call (608) 243-0357, or visit www.publichealthmdc.com for more information 

Find out more about how to identify lead water pipes and steps you can take to make your water safer.

Lead & Copper Rule Sampling

Based on our recent lead & copper test results, Madison Water Utility is on reduced monitoring. This schedule requires monitoring for lead and copper at 50 instead of 100 homes, with testing occurring every three years instead of every year. The next round of sampling will take place in 2026. Results from the last five rounds of sampling are linked and listed in the chart below.

Monitoring Year90th Percentile Lead (ppb)*90th Percentile Copper (ppb)*
2011 (summary)3.0172

*90% of water sample results were at or below this level; ppb – parts per billion

Reducing Lead Exposure Risk

Elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. While Madison Water Utility has removed all known lead services, we do not control the materials found in household plumbing systems and/or components. Some faucets, fixtures, and pipes in your house might contain lead. The longer water has been sitting in the plumbing system, the more lead it may contain. To further reduce risks of lead exposure:

  • Always use the cold water tap to draw water for drinking, cooking or preparing infant formula. 
  • Run the tap until the water becomes noticeably colder.  This action will ensure the water is coming from the water main rather than water that has been sitting unused in the internal pipes of the home.
  • Replace any plumbing fixtures that may contain lead.  Faucets, fittings, and valves installed before 2015 may contain up to 8% lead including those that were advertised or labeled as “lead-free”.
  • If water tested from your home has elevated lead, you may want to consider purchasing a water filter.  Read the package to be sure the filter is certified to reduce lead or contact NSF International (www.nsf.org).
  • Find more information at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

Contact Madison Water Utility at (608) 266-4654 if you have additional questions.

Was this page helpful to you?