The water leaving the treatment plant and traveling through water mains is almost always free of lead. However, lead is sometimes present in pipes connecting older homes to the water system or in fixtures and home plumbing. Water utilities adjust the water’s chemistry at the treatment plant to minimize the possibility of lead dissolving into the water.
If your drinking water never comes into contact with lead materials, you are not at risk. Most lead materials were effectively banned in 1980s, so if your home was built after that decade, lead is unlikely to be a concern. If you live in an older structure, there are steps you can take to see if you may be at risk. Contact your water provider to see if it has home testing options available. If not, it can help you find a certified laboratory to test your water.
Your utility may or may not know if you have a lead service line. If not, you can find out yourself or with the help of a licensed plumber. Service lines typically enter the home in the basement or crawl space. If the pipe is lead, it will have a dull finish that shines brightly when scratched with a key or coin. Using a magnet can also help you identify a lead pipe, because even a strong magnet will not cling to lead.
A licensed plumber can inspect both your service line and other materials in contact with your drinking water.
Water systems that deliver soft water, which has fewer dissolved minerals, and water that is more acidic and higher in dissolved oxygen, can be more corrosive, increasing the risk of lead contamination. Watch for frequent leaks, discolored water and stained dishes or clothes, as these are all signs of corrosive water. Also, check with your local water utility to find out more about whether your water is corrosive and what can be done. You can also find out if your public supply system contains any lead piping.
Review Denver Water's illustration on the most common source of lead in treated drinking water.