The water we supply you with is some of the most stringently tested in the world and it undergoes rigorous daily inspection to ensure it is of the highest quality. However, if the pipes that run to your home are made of lead then small traces can be found in your drinking water.

The Department of Health advises that lead can be harmful if levels are allowed to build up in the body. Therefore, it makes sense to try to reduce the amount as much as possible, particularly if you are pregnant or have young children. For further health advice please contact Public Health England on 0300 303 8162 or your GP.

But don’t worry as there are some really simple steps you can take to help.

How do I know if I have lead pipes?
Firstly you need to know if the pipes in your home are made from lead.

If your property was built before 1970 then you may have lead pipes, but those built after should have either copper or plastic pipes.

It is simple to check if your pipes are lead. Find the point where the water service pipe enters your property – it’s usually under your kitchen sink, in a cupboard or under your stairs. Unpainted lead pipes are a dull grey colour and if scraped with a coin you will see a shiny, silver-coloured metal underneath.

What if I do have lead pipes?
Even if you have lead pipes there is still only a low possibility of lead being in your water. Over 98% of the water we test from lead pipes has no lead or very little lead in it.

Give us a call on 0345 702 3797 or email us at customer.services@bristolwater.co.uk and we will arrange for a member of staff to come to your property and test the water free of charge.

Before we get to your home there are a few things you can do to reduce any possible lead in your water.

Flushing – Run the cold water tap first thing in the morning or when you get home from work for at least two minutes, about enough to fill a washing up bowl or a watering can. Alternatively, flushing the toilet or taking a shower draws fresh water through the pipes.

Cold water tap – Only use water from the cold water tap in the kitchen for cooking, drinking and when making up baby formula – this is usually the one that brings water direct from the mains pipe.

Water filters – as a short-term measure, some water filters can remove traces of lead. You’ll need to check the instructions carefully to make sure that the filter is designed to remove lead.

The best way to get rid of lead completely is to replace the lead pipes. You’ll need to get a quote from a reputable plumber to find out how much it will cost, go to www.watersafe.org.uk to find an approved plumber. Normally if you decide to replace your part of the pipe, we’ll replace our bit free of charge.

What happens when Bristol Water works on your lead pipes?

Following works on your lead pipes to install a meter or replace a stop tap, there might be an elevated lead concentration for a period of up to three days, and we will advise you if this happens.

The Department of Health advises that lead can be harmful if levels are allowed to build up in the body. Therefore, it makes sense to try to reduce the amount as much possible, particularly if you are pregnant or have young children.

Please complete the following two steps:

  • Run your cold water kitchen tap at the earliest opportunity following the completion of our work for ten minutes
  • Run the cold kitchen tap for two minutes first thing in the morning for three days

If we do works on your lead pipes, we will leave a purple card for you to provide feedback on how we did. On the form, you can also claim £5 back as a reimbursement for the extra water used by ticking the relevant box.

As a thank you for your support, you will also receive a two-minute ‘toothy timer’ to remind you that you can save around 12 litres of water if you turn the tap off when brushing your teeth.

How do I know which pipe I’m responsible for?
By law, the owner is responsible for maintaining the pipes running under their property, garden or driveway that supply their property. They are also responsible for the pipes within their property. This means that if there is a leak from any pipes within the property boundary, the responsibility for making a repair falls to the property owner. In some circumstances, responsibility may extend beyond the property boundary.

What is Bristol Water doing about lead?
We treat all the water in high risk areas to reduce its ability to dissolve lead. If we come and test your water and find it is above 8 µg/l then we will replace our section of the pipe that supplies your home. Also if you decide to change your part of the pipe then we will normally change ours at no extra cost.

We have a programme to replace all our lead pipes that supply infant and primary schools within our area and we also carry out lead replacement during any renewal work we do where possible.

If you want to find out more about lead see the Frequently Asked Questions at the bottom of this page. If you’re thinking of having your pipes changed then please click here for more details.