Lead and water service lines
In Calgary, lead service connections were only used for a short time period, primarily between 1939 and 1947, during World War II when copper was not readily available. Following the war, copper once again became the main material for service lines.
The City is responsible for the water service line that extends from the water main up to the homeowner's property line. All pipes, solder and fittings on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.
There are currently less than 150 homes which still have public lead service pipes, and those are being removed as part of an accelerated removal program.
How to check if the private water service is lead or galvanized steel
First, find your water meter. It is usually located in the basement.
Check the colour of pipe leading from outside your home to the water meter.
- Copper pipes will be a brownish, copper colour.
- Galvanized steel pipes will be grey.
- Lead pipes are a dark, matte grey.
If your pipe is grey, you can further determine if it is lead by placing a magnet on the pipe. A magnet will stick to galvanized steel. A magnet will not stick to a lead pipe.
In addition, if you scrape a lead pipe with a coin or screwdriver, the metal will be soft and turn shiny.
If you are still unsure whether your pipes are lead, or if you are unable to reach your pipes, hire a plumber to carry out these checks for you.
How to check if the public water service is lead or galvanized steel
To see the material your home’s public water service line is made of you can search our Public Water Service Lines database.
Please follow these steps:
- Click on the blue “View Data” button on the right.
- Type your address into the “Find in this dataset” search bar on the top right.
Frequently asked questions
No. The majority of water service pipes in Calgary, including homes built prior to 1950, are made of copper.
The National Plumbing Code of Canada permitted homebuilders the use of lead in piping in homes until 1975, and lead solder until 1986. Restrictions on lead content in brass plumbing fittings and fixtures took effect in 2013.
To avoid lead fixtures and plumbing:
- Make sure lead-free materials are used when renovating or building a new home. Remove faucet strainers periodically to rinse and remove any debris.
- If installing water treatment systems such as water softeners or filtration devices, make sure you have the installation done by a certified plumber.
If you are unsure whether your pipes, fixtures and solder are lead, hire a plumber to check for you.
If I’m concerned about lead pipes or fixtures in my home, how can I mitigate lead in my drinking water?
Flush the pipes: After periods of non-use let the water run. Two to Three minutes if it has been a few hours. Three to five minutes if it’s been a few days. Five to ten minutes if it’s been two weeks or more. If the property has been vacant flush for 20 minutes. This ensures fresh water is drawn directly from our water distribution system. This ensures fresh water is drawn directly from our water distribution system.
- Conservation Tip: Use flushed water for non-potable purposes such as watering plants or washing dishes.
Use cold water: For drinking, cooking or preparing baby formula use cold water. Hot water is more likely to leach minerals or metals from the plumbing. Boiling water does not remove lead.
Plumbing inspection: A licensed plumber can determine if a home contains lead solder, lead pipes or pipe fittings. The presence of these materials does not mean lead is in the water, but rather that there is the potential for lead to be in the water.
NSF 53 Filters: Consider the use of an NSF 53 certified filter. Filters with NSF 53 certification are independently proven to reduce lead concentrations and come in a variety of formats such as pitcher filters, tap mounted filters and built-in filters.
For more information on NSF certified filters, please visit the NSF website.
The City’s plan to accelerate the removal of all remaining public and private lead service lines is currently underway and should be complete in 2024.
In the meantime, the City proactively works with homeowners whose property has been identified as having public and / or private lead service pipes, including:
- Water quality testing
- Education and tips about maintaining water quality
- A rebate for an NSF-53 certified, kitchen-tap mounted or built-in water filtration device, an NSF-58 certified reverse osmosis system, or an NSF-62 certified distillation system.
If you have reason to believe that your home has a lead water service or are planning to replace your private lead service line, and have not spoken with The City, please call 311.
The City provides water quality testing through the annual Tap Water Sampling Program for properties known to, or likely having a lead water service line between May 1 and September 30 every calendar year.
In all other cases, to test the water homeowners should arrange for sampling and testing by a private accredited licensed laboratory. For more information visit:
The City recently replaced my lead water service line. How do I flush my system? Will my drinking water be tested?
Once the lead service line has been replaced there are some steps you should take to ensure water quality in your home. These steps will ensure that any lead particles disturbed during the replacement process are flushed from your internal plumbing:
- You will need to flush your system. Remove all screens and aerators. Run a bathtub tap on cold for 20 minutes, followed by all other cold taps in house for 10 minutes each or until the water runs clear. Reinstall all screens and aerators.
If the water does not run clear after 30 minutes, contact 311. Do not use this water.
Over the next six months periodically remove screens and aerators from indoor faucets, wash them in hot soapy water, and then disinfect them for 10 minutes in a solution of one-part bleach to nine parts water.
- Disinfect any water filters to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
As part of The City’s Lead Replacement Program, follow-up sampling will be performed within one month of the public service pipe replacement, and again after three to six months.
No. Removing lead service lines is a shared responsibility between The City of Calgary and the homeowner. To minimize lead exposure, it is best to replace the public and private water service lines at the same time. Partial replacement, (where only the public side, or only the private side is replaced), can disturb any remaining lead and may increase the amount of lead found in your drinking water.
The City will therefore wait to replace the public line until the homeowner is prepared to replace their private line.
- Alberta Health Services - Lead Frequently Asked Questions
- Alberta Environment & Parks - Guidance Document for Managing Lead in Municipal Drinking Water Systems in Alberta
- Health Canada - Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality - Lead