Lead in Drinking Water

CWWA Fact Sheet and Speaking Notes

Health Canada today published revised guidelines concerning lead (Pb) in Canadian drinking water.  The most significant change is the reduction of the Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC) of lead in drinking water from 0.01 mg/L to just 0.005 mg/L.

CWWA and our members, the municipal water professionals in Canada, fully support these new, science-based targets and support all efforts to one day eliminate all lead from drinking water.  But we all need to recognize that these are aggressive targets that cannot be achieved overnight.  There are significant challenges, mostly outside of municipal authority to address.  So this will require a combined effort from federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments as well as individual property owners to achieve these targets.

Our greatest concern is how quickly these Guidelines might be implemented in each province and territory and how this might affect the public’s confidence in their drinking water.  We need all Canadians to understand that nothing has changed overnight regarding the safety of their water.  Rather, we have agreed upon even better targets.  We need the public to understand that safe drinking water leaves the treatment plant lead-free and is distributed through water mains down each street lead-free.  Drinking water only comes into contact with lead when it reaches the service line from the water main to an individual property and/or in the plumbing and fixtures within individual homes and buildings.  As the use of lead service lines was phased out in the 1960’s, this only affects older homes in older neighbourhoods.

So the bulk of our lead issue lies on or within private property, outside of the road allowance and municipal authority.  Aside from the significant cost and disruption to replace lead service lines, our greatest challenge is to engage the individual property owners to cooperate with municipal utilities to replace lead service lines and to address any other plumbing within their building.  

To support our members in speaking about these Guidelines to their Council, their customers or the media, CWWA has prepared a Fact Sheet and Speaking Notes.  The Fact Sheet provides general details about Lead and the Guidelines, but more detail can be attained from Health Canada or your local public health authority. The Speaking Notes outline our key points we need to make as municipal water professionals.  We encourage members to use these speaking notes and to share these tools with their Communications staff and municipal Council.

Additional Resources

Health Canada

Water Talk: Reducing your Exposure to Lead from Drinking Water

Drinking water: what about lead?

Guidance on Controlling Corrosion in Drinking Water Distribution Systems

American Water Works Association

Managing Drinking Water in Lead

AWWA’s Communications Toolkit “Lead and Drinking Water – Talking with Your Community”:

Video: AWWA: Together, Let's Get the Lead Out

Lead Service Line Collaborative (US)


NSF International

NSF Certified Filters

Member Communication

Halifax - Lead and water quality

Region of Waterloo - Lead in Drinking Water

Epcor - Lead in Drinking Water


If you would like to add your resources to this webpage please send them to Kara Parisien at kparisien@cwwa.ca.