LA Drinking Water Protections February 2016

Facts about Lead and Lead Testing

The extremely high level of lead in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan has raised public awareness and concern about potential health issues associated with lead, as well as other drinking water contaminants. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power tests the City’s water for lead in accordance with all state and federal drinking water requirements, including US EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule. Specific, required lead and copper testing has been done for over 20 years and is part of our obligation to ensure that the City’s drinking water is clean and safe to drink.

Water sources do not typically contain much naturally-occurring lead, but when lead is found in treated water, it is normally because the water chemistry has caused it to react, or leach out metals from water pipes and customers’ plumbing.  The cause of the high lead levels in Flint was due to switching water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which had a different water chemistry that reacted with pipes that carried the water to customers’ taps, as well as the customers’ own home plumbing. LADWP does not have lead pipe in its water distribution system and has systematically been removing fixtures with even small amounts of lead, such as in older water meters, from its system.

To test for lead in LA’s water system and to comply with the US EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, every 3 years, LADWP analyzes the “first draw” of water from a sampling of Los Angeles homes built between 1983 and 1986 with copper plumbing and lead solder. These results show LA’s water consistently meets federal water quality standards well below the acceptable level for lead of 15 parts per billion.  Both the source water and the distribution system are sampled during these tests and confirm these results.

Customers interested in testing their tap water for lead and other contaminants can consider services by private laboratories, or if their home meets the EPA site criteria, can volunteer to be part of LADWP’s Residential Sampling Team and get their water tested for free. For more information and results for “lead at the tap”, please check out LADWP’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, available at

Citywide Use of Chloramine

Over the past 15 years, LADWP has been expanding the use of chloramine as a disinfectant to protect water as it travels through the thousands of miles of pipe to our customer’s taps. The Harbor and eastern portions of Los Angeles have received chloraminated water for more than 25 years, since the water in this part of the City comes primarily from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Chloraminated water is safe to drink.  It is safe for bathing, cooking, and other daily uses.  It is also safe to wash wounds or cuts because virtually no water can enter the bloodstream that way.  Like chlorine, chloramine must be removed from the water used in kidney dialysis, fish tanks and ponds, and businesses requiring highly treated water.

When compared to chlorine, chloramine produces fewer byproducts of disinfection, keeps the water safer longer as the water moves through the pipes, and improves the smell and taste of the water.

Chloramine has been used by water utilities in the U.S. and Canada as an effective drinking water disinfectant for more than 90 years and is approved by the U.S. EPA.

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