Irish Water is working hard to improve the quality and supply of our water. We are also tackling national issues like the impact of lead pipes on drinking water. We treat more than 1.7 billion litres of drinking water every day. When water leaves our treatment plants it is lead free and our records show that there are no lead public water mains in Ireland. However, lead plumbing was widely used in houses built before the 1980's. It is estimated that 180,000 homes in Ireland together with public buildings, schools, medical centres and other buildings over 40 years old, may have lead plumbing.
As water passes through lead pipes and fittings, lead can dissolve into it. The majority of lead found in drinking water comes from the lead plumbing inside the property boundary and that’s the responsibility of the owner. If your home was built before 1980, then you should check your plumbing for lead. If there is lead then you should replace the plumbing, and the Government has a grant scheme that you may qualify for. There is more information on how to check your plumbing for lead in our Lead FAQs.
Irish Water have developed an Information leaflet for customers on Lead and an Information leaflet for business customers on Lead.
There are public health risks from consumption of lead in drinking water. Limits on lead content in drinking water only began to apply in 1998. The EU Drinking Water Directive, following World Health Organisation (WHO) advice, proposed a staged reduction in lead limits for drinking water from a previous standard of 50µg/l (parts per billion) to an interim level of 25 µg/l . This limit applied until 25th December 2013, when it was further reduced to 10 µg/l.
The WHO advice is that the ultimate goal should be removal of all lead piping likely to supply water for drinking. The main risk is for pregnant women, infants and young. In the period since the 1990’s, lead from other sources (for example petrol and paint) has been largely eliminated.
The Government has a National Strategy to Reduce Exposure to Lead in Drinking Water and Irish Water has developed a Draft Mitigation Plan, in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health Service Executive. As part of our plan we are checking for lead in drinking water at the tap as part of Ireland’s first nationwide monitoring programme. We are also checking for lead services as part of our metering programme. If we do find lead at your property we will inform you by letter and we are fast-tracking the replacement of all the public side lead service connections.
The drinking water produced and distributed by Irish Water is free from lead however there is a possibility that lead can dissolve into water as it passes through lead pipework. Our records currently show there are no lead water mains in Ireland but service connections within properties can contain traces of lead, and the vast majority of lead pipes in this situation are contained within properties built up to and including the 1970's.
Problems with lead in water supplies have been signalled since 1998, but in the absence of a national water utility, the scale of the issue is now only becoming clear.
Irish Water has included a Customer Opt-In Step By Step Guide as part of the draft Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan. As part of this scheme Irish Water commit to replacement of the public side lead service when the customer has replaced the private side lead service.