Lead and water service lines
Protecting public health by providing clean and safe drinking water is our most important priority.
We test our drinking water over 100,000 times a year and meet or perform better than all provincial and federal guidelines.
Today there are just over 500 homes in Calgary with public lead service connections.
When compared to our total number of 339,000 customers this represents only 0.2% of homes receiving water service. In other words, 99.8% of Calgary homes do not have public lead service connections.
Old pipes are the problem, not our drinking water
It is rare to find lead in Calgary's drinking water. That's because lead is not naturally occurring in the Bow and Elbow Rivers. The only way for lead to be found in the water is for it to be picked up in the distribution system.
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's data shows that it is rare to find a home built after 1950 that has lead service lines on public or private property.
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.
What is the difference between private and public water 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. The figure below demonstrates the delineation between the public and private side.
Replacing Lead Service Lines
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 2023.
In the meantime, the City proactively works with homeowners whose property has been identified as having public 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 public lead water service or are planning to replace your private lead service line, and have not spoken with The City, please call 311.
For homeowners following service line replacement
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.
o If the water does not run clear after 30 minutes, contact 311. Do not use this water.
o 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 Tap Water Sampling Program, follow-up sampling will be performed within one month of the public service pipe replacement, and again after three to six months.
- 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
Mitigating lead in 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.
Water Quality Testing: The City only provides water quality testing through the annual Tap Water Sampling Program for properties known to, or likely having a lead water service line.
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:
Home building and maintenance: Make sure lead-free materials are used when renovating or building a new home. Remove faucet strainers periodically to rinse and remove any debris.
Hire professionals: If installing water treatment systems such as water softeners or filtration devices, make sure you have the installation done by a certified plumber.
You can also check for lead pipes and fixtures within your home.