Survey: Most water systems unprepared for LCR revisions

lead pipe

A new survey shows the majority of U.S. water systems may not be ready for sweeping regulatory changes governing safe drinking water that are expected to begin Dec. 16, 2021. The survey was conducted by 120Water, a solutions provider for managing lead programs.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden in November provides $15 billion for the replacement of lead service lines in the country’s drinking water systems. According to a recent statement from the American Water Works Association, the total cost of replacing all lead service lines across the United States could be “a $60 billion challenge.”

120Water surveyed more than 200 water utility professionals about their readiness to meet the new Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) revisions, the first regulatory changes in nearly 30 years. The LCR revisions create challenges for state agencies and water systems that must take new steps in order to keep the public safe from lead in drinking water, and gives these entities just three years to comply.

“New regulatory programs require an incredible amount of resources, including funding, staff and technology,” said Megan Glover, CEO of 120Water. “The funding available through the infrastructure bill should help alleviate some of the burden imposed by new regulatory requirements on utilities and enable them to move forward to meet the requirements of the LCRR.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • Most water systems have not started lead service line inventories. The LCR revisions require water systems to conduct public and private lead service line (LSL) inventories in preparation for remediation. The 120Water study shows that only 16 percent of water systems have inventories of 75 percent or more of the lead service lines in their systems. More than half of water systems surveyed said they have no data on LSLs at all; 60 percent say they know of 25 percent or less of LSLs in the system.
  • More than half of water systems do not have an LSL replacement plan. As part of the LCR revisions, 3 percent of identified LSLs must be replaced each year until all lead lines are remediated. Less than half of the systems surveyed had an LSL replacement plan, and 10 percent of those systems say that their plan would not allow them to replace 3 percent of identified LSLs each year, as required.
  • Water systems are not yet able to publish real-time LSL inventories. 88 percent of water systems say they cannot meet the LCR revision requirement to make the lead service line inventory publicly available in real-time.
  • Water systems are struggling to comply with 24-hour notification rules. Only 32 percent of water systems have email addresses on file for customers, which will be necessary to comply with 24-hour notification rules if lead is detected in drinking water.

“Water systems are in the business of providing safe drinking water to their customers. With the additional funding available through the infrastructure bill, they will be able to invest in the programs, people and technology necessary to build resilient communities now and into the future,” added Glover.

To see how prepared your utility is for complying with the proposed revisions, take 120Water’s Preparedness Quiz here.

120Water works with water professionals across the country to manage critical lead and drinking water programs. Comprising secure cloud-based software, services, and point-of-use kits, 120Water provides workflows for complying with lead and water quality programs to protect public health. Its team of water, policy and technology experts has supported over 7,000 sampling events across the country, partnering with water systems and government agencies such as Citizens Energy Group, the City of Providence, the City of Asheville, and Chicago Public Schools to protect public health and provide clean drinking water to all communities.

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