7 Ways the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions Will Impact Your System

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced the finalized Lead and Copper Rule Revision (LCRR) in December 2021 after a concerted effort to collect public comment for over two years. The public comment period led USEPA to decide the implementation of the LCRR, as written, would not be delayed and that it does not go far enough to protect the public from the dangers of lead in drinking water. USEPA has announced it will work on the Lead and Copper Rule Improvement (LCRI) rule language in the next 18 months.

Don’t be fooled by the name LCRR; it hardly resembles the old Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) we have been complying with for over 30 years. There are new levels requiring action, different sampling protocols, new sample site selection criteria, stronger public notice steps, specific action plans, and new infrastructure inventory requirements. But the biggest change is to the previously sacred boundary of the water system’s responsibility at the meter. Ever since the beginning of drinking water regulations, water systems were required to ensure the quality of water delivered to the property line. This is the first time in history that we are being expected to take responsibility for what is coming out of the tap inside someone else’s building and collect information on infrastructure that is privately owned. This single change affects every new aspect of the LCRR.

Let’s take them one at a time. Jump to a specific section by clicking a title in the list below:

  1. Service Line Inventories
  2. New Regulatory Levels for Lead
  3. New Sampling Plans
  4. New Sampling Protocols
  5. Public Education Requirements
  6. Action Plans
  7. Funding

1. Service Line Inventories

If you only remember one thing from this article, I want it to be this: systems need to begin identifying the material of every service line in your service area now.  This includes the service lines from the main to the meter or property line AND the service lines from the meter or property line into each home and building. If you have 5,000 connections, you need 10,000 pieces of information.

Inventories must:

  1. Include location in some form,
  2. Be publicly available and posted online depending on the size of your system,
  3. Be submitted to the primacy agency by October 16, 2024.

USEPA has not given specific guidance on what will be required to document service line inventories, but some primacy agencies have already begun to develop reporting templates.

There is no longer time to wait to get this in your budget or to see if there will be some silver bullet that will make it easier. The longer systems wait to begin, the more “unknowns” will be included on your inventory. Unknowns will be handled the same as lead service lines under the LCRR and will increase your workload, cost, and complexity going forward. In addition, systems are required to justify the material entered for each service line. You will not be permitted to simply say the service lines are not lead – someone needs to determine what the material is and how you know that.

2. New Regulatory Levels for Lead

The LCR used the level of lead or copper to determine when a water system needed to investigate enhanced corrosion control. The LCRR lowers the level of lead triggering this action from 15 ug/L to 10 ug/L. It also makes a single sample occurrence of lead over 15 ug/L an acute contaminate requiring 24-hour notice to the residents within the home with the high sample result. It also requires a 24-hour notification if the entire service area of the 90th Percentile1 is above 15ug/L.

While the LCRR falls short of establishing a health based maximum contaminant level (MCL), it still functionally lowered the point at which water systems need to respond. Water systems that were fully compliant under the LCR may not be compliant under the LCRR even if the sample locations and procedures were not changing, which they are.

3. New Sampling Plans

New sampling plans are required for the LCRR. The old rule had a three-tiered system to select sampling locations and the same sites had to be utilized for each round of subsequent sampling. The LCRR has five tiers to select residential sampling sites.

Tier 1 – Lead Service Lines with single family residents.

Tier 2 – Lead Service Line homes or building with multiple family residents.

Tier 3 – Galvanized Service Lines.

Tier 4 – Single family homes with copper lines containing lead solder.

Tier 5 – Sites representative of the system, including non-residential buildings.

These sample sites are re-evaluated after each sample event based on changes from the action plan discussed later in this article. In addition to the residential sites, all primary schools2 and childcare3 facilities, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately operated, are to be sampled over the five years between 2025 and 20294.

To create this new sampling plan, water systems will be required to identify all the schools and childcare facilities within the service area and use the information from completed service line inventories. I expect these sampling plans will be required to be submitted to primacy agencies5 near the end of the year in 2024.

Please note that you are required to continue sampling under the old sampling plan through the end of 2024 while you are preparing the new sampling plan.

4. New Sampling Protocols

The LCR required first-draw samples from a consumable tap6. The LCRR addresses the concern that the first draw is masking potential lead exposure from lead contamination that occurs from service lines or other buried infrastructure. The LCRR has new sampling protocols for compliance and follow-up sampling.

Samples collected from sites representing Tiers 1, 2, or select Tier 3 are required to analyze both the 1st and the 5th liter sample for lead. In addition, samples collected in schools and childcare facilities must be collected in a 250 ml bottle instead of the 1-liter bottles required for residential samples.

These changes will create unique challenges in working with the residents and facilities administrators who will likely take these samples on behalf of the water system since the six-hour stagnation requirement before a sample can be collected remains in place.

In addition, the three-year monitoring cycle that many water systems have become familiar with is actually reduced monitoring under the old rule. With the changes in the sample plans and sample protocols, water systems will be required to go back to standard monitoring for a time. Water systems will be required to monitor every six months until sufficient sample events have been conducted under the LCRR for the primacy agency to re-establish reduced monitoring.

5. Public Education Requirements

Part of the intent of the LCRR is to better inform the public of their personal risk of exposure to lead in their drinking water. Water systems are required to inform residents if there is lead in the service line and work closely with those who have a high sample result from their home to determine where the lead is likely coming from.

The LCRR requires more information be given to the public more frequently. There is a requirement to post detailed information online, depending on the size of the system. It is wise to embrace these new communication requirements and prepare early to address any concerns or questions that will arise. A thoughtful communication plan can not only alleviate difficult conversations, it can also strengthen your reputation within the community.

6. Action Plans

Water systems will be required to develop and submit a written action plan detailing how the system will respond to high lead sample results, potential changes to corrosion control programs, and how the replacement of lead service lines will be staged.

The LCRR requires a specific annual replacement rate7 of the lead, partial-lead, and galvanized-downstream-of-lead service lines when the sampling trigger8 is reached. To have a service line replacement count towards compliance it must be a full replacement including both the private and the public sections.

Service lines listed as “unknown” in the inventory are handled as lead service lines from a regulatory standpoints and will increase the actual number of service line replacements that must be completed each year. However, if an unknown service line is later found to be non-lead it does not count towards the required number of replacements.

Currently, the LCRR requires public water systems to start replacing the lead, partial-lead, and galvanized sections downstream of lead service lines once a sampling trigger is met. This is when the action plan comes into play. However, if a subsequent sampling event is below a triggering level, the system could suspend the replacement plan – essentially creating an offramp to full replacement.

Under the LCRR, USEPA has indicated the intent to make the action plan section of the rule more assertive, to achieve faster replacement of lead service line. USEPA announced the intent to remove the sampling offramp to full line replacement, and to provide funding for low-income property owners so disadvantaged properties do not get delayed based on an inability to afford the private side replacement. These changes are expected in the forthcoming LCRI. 

7. Funding

There has been a lot of talk of money being made available to help water systems comply with the new LCRR requirements. Much of the funding has already been appropriated by the Federal government, but has yet to be passed on to the States that need to find a way to distribute it to water systems. The money is coming, but it will not arrive in time to help systems get started. The best thing systems can do to help secure a share of the funding is to clearly identify what the system’s cost will be as soon as possible. There won’t be enough money in the end, so don’t wait to think about it until it is gone.


Yes, this rule is going to be hard. Yes, it is going to take more work than can likely be done by the October 16, 2024 deadline. Yes, it makes water systems deal with infrastructure on the private side of the line. Yes, it will be expensive. Yes, the money that is supposed to help hasn’t materialized yet.  Yes, there are still questions. Yes, there will still be changes.  And yes, it will do more to protect your residents from the dangers of lead in their drinking water than any other previous effort has. Most importantly, yes, you can do this. And yes, AE2S can help.

If you have questions about the LCRR or LCRI, feel free to contact Marie.Owens@ae2s.com.


1 – 90th Percentile is a specific statistical value of a given data set. It basically refers to the lowest value that the top 10% of your samples comes in at. Please reach out if you would like more information on this regulatory detail.
Back to New Regulatory Levels for Lead section

2- Primary schools are considered elementary schools. It does not include universities, collages, high schools, middle schools, or junior high schools. These are considered secondary schools and are only required to be sampled upon request, unless there is a childcare facility housed within. Preschools, including separate kindergarten, are included under childcare facilities.
Back to New Sampling Plans section

3- This has been widely interpreted as licensed childcare facilities. The licensing protocol varies across jurisdiction so you will need to determine how to identify these facilities within your service area.
Back to New Sampling Plans section

4- Some primacy agencies have proactively implemented programs to already sample the schools and childcare facilities. EPA may allow these primacy agencies to waive this requirement if an equal or better sampling effort has already been conducted. We can help you determine if this will be a requirement for you.
Back to New Sampling Plans section

5 – Your primacy agency is the local regulatory authority that EPA has delegated oversight of the Safe Drinking Water Act to. This is typically your state Department of Health or Department of Environmental Quality.
Back to New Sampling Plans section

6- Consumable taps within a home are either the kitchen or a bathroom sink. A consumable tap with a school or childcare facility is the kitchen and drinking fountains and classroom sinks where water bottles can be filled. It does not include science lab sinks or janitorial taps.
Back to New Sampling Protocols section

7- The current LCRR specifies at least 3% of the lead service lines be replaced each year. A small system can get an alternate replacement rate approved. This will likely change with the LCRI
Back to Action Plans section

8- The trigger for lead service line replacement at 3% per year is a 90th Percentile of a single compliance sampling event at or above 15 ug/L. If the 90th Percentile is at or above 10 ug/L, but lower than 15 ug/L, then replacement of the lead service lines will have to occur at a rate agreed upon with the primacy agency.
Back to Action Plans section

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