Drinking Water Requirements for States and Public Water Systems

Lead and Copper Rule

Rule Summary

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.

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.

While the LCR rule applies to water utilities, the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act sets standards for: 

  • pipe,
  • plumbing fittings,
  • fixtures,
  • solder  
  • and flux

Everyone can take part in the reduction of lead and copper in drinking water. View Actions You Can Take To Reduce Lead in Drinking Water(PDF)(4 pp, 567 K, About PDF) EPA 810-F-93-001

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Rule History

The Lead and Copper Rule can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. 

Long Term Revisions

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.

Short Term Revisions

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 is: meaningful, timely and useful information. These changes are also known as the “Short-Term Revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule.”

Minor Revisions

In 2004, EPA published minor corrections to the LCR to reinstate text that was inadvertently dropped from the rule during previous revisions.

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.

The 1991 Rule

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.

Lead and Copper Rule Historical Documents

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Additional Resources

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.

Drinking Water Regulations Under Development or Review

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.

Water Supply Guidance Manual

EPA periodically issues memorandums which clarify drinking water policies and regulations. These policy memos have been collected into a water supply guidance (WSG) manual which is made available to states and public water systems to assist in implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

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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.

EPA has also developed background information and guidance materials regarding lead in drinking water in schools and child care facilities.

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