Lead and copper typically get into drinking water as a result of corrosion of plumbing systems (pipes, faucets, and lead solder) in customers’ homes.

Corrosion does not typically occur in homes built before 1982 because minerals in the water have coated the inside of the plumbing system. In New Mexico, lead solder may have been used prior to 1987. According to USEPA guidelines, homes built between 1982 and 1987, the “worst case” examples, were likely to contain the highest concentrations of these metals.

As required by USEPA, homes built between 1982 and 1987 were identified throughout the distribution system. Customers residing in these homes were selected at random to volunteer to collect samples inside their homes. All results from these sites were well below the limits allowed by regulations.

Results of Compliance Lead & Copper Sampling at Customer Taps 2021
(50 samples every three years)
90th Percentile
Value Detected
Number of Samples that Exceed the Action Level Maximum Detected Action Level5 Maximum Contaminant Level Goal Source
Lead 2 PPB Zero 4 PPB Exceeds Action Level if more than 10% of the homes tested have lead levels greater than 15 PPB Zero PPM Corrosion of household plumbing.
Copper 0.1 PPM Zero 0.15 PPM Exceeds Action Level if more than 10% of the homes tested have more than 1.3 PPM Zero PPM Corrosion of household plumbing.
PPB = Parts Per Billion    PPM = Parts Per Million
5 Action Level = The concentration of a contaminant which, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements which a water system must follow. The Action Level is compared to the concentration detected in the 90th percentile sample.
5 Nivel de Acción = La concentración de un contaminante que, de ser excedido, provoca el tratamiento u otras exigencias que un sistema de agua debe seguir.

Lead in Drinking Water

If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. The Water Authority is responsible for providing high quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline or at www.epa.gov/safewater/lead.

Lead Questions Answered

What are the lead levels in Albuquerque’s water supply and do they meet federal standards?

The Water Authority has never exceeded the action level for lead. During the last round of sampling in 2021, the 90th percentile sample for our system was 2 PPB. The highest sample detected was 4 PPB.

Is there a history of lead use in Albuquerque’s water system?

No. A study done in the 1990s concluded that lead pipe was not used in construction of the water system. However, lead bearing materials were sometimes used to connect the water mains to the service lines. We worked to take those connections out of the system at that time.

Are there lead components remaining in the water system?

There may be some, but our monitoring results show very low levels of lead. This further confirms the conclusion in the 1990s study. It is possible, however, that lead pipe may still be in place in some older homes.

I understand that lead isn’t a problem in the water distribution system, but I am concerned that there might be lead in my home plumbing. Are there any steps I should take?

Prior to 1986 lead was a primary component in the solder used to join copper pipes. EPA considers these homes to be the worst case or highest risk homes for exposure to lead through solder. Older homes built before 1965 may have plumbing made of lead.

If you live in an older home, you may wish to discuss your individual situation with a physician and consider having you or your children’s blood lead levels tested. When water has been sitting in your pipes unused for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds before drinking or cooking.

The Water Authority offers free lead testing to customers.

2021 Customer Requested Testing 2018 EPA Required Testing
Parameter Minimum Maximum 90th Percentile Minimum Maximum 90th Percentile Action Level
Lead PPB 0 20 PPB 2 PPB 0 4 2 15
Copper PPM N/A N/A N/A 0.0 0.15 0.1 1.3

What is a private water service?

It is the portion of the water service pipe running from the private property line into the building. This pipe may be made of or contain lead.

The Water Authority will test your water for lead at no expense. Please complete our Sample Collection Request form or call 842-WATR option 1 to speak with staff in the Communication Center about scheduling a sample collection.

Water System Connection to a Residence

Image after Boston, MA, Water and Sewer Commission Lead Replacement Incentive Program Brochure