The Complete Guide to the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR)

Lead – a neurotoxin – is a health risk to millions of Americans.

There’s no safe lead level for children, yet between 6 and 10 million buildings are connected to lead service lines (LSL), and lead permeates internal plumbing in millions of older buildings.

The EPA, states, and water systems have reduced lead levels significantly in the 21st century, but the water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a tragic reminder that lead remains a serious threat across the U.S., especially to historically marginalized communities.

With this in mind, the EPA’s recent Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) aim to get the lead out of millions of homes by strengthening the existing Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).

A key priority for the White House, this new rule is:

  • The most significant water regulation in 30 years
  • Accompanied by historic funding
  • Paired with several non-regulatory EPA initiatives
  • The forerunner to the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI)

Understanding the LCRR and preparing for the LCRI is critical to compliance and ensuring every community has access to safe drinking water.

If you’re already familiar with these rules and want a deep dive, check out our Quick Reference Guide exploring the precise differences between the LCR, LCRR, and LCRI.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice. The purpose of our series is to help unpack the Lead and Copper Rule but should not be relied on as legal counsel.

What is the Revised Lead and Copper Rule?

Issued on December 16, 2021, the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) strengthen the existing Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) by:

  • Improving lead sampling and corrosion control
  • Expanding public education and customer outreach
  • Starting lead testing in schools and childcare facilities
  • Initiating more lead service line replacements

Let’s take a moment to define some key terms before we examine the Lead and Copper Rule, its revisions, and upcoming improvements in more detail.

a water cover surrounded by grass

5 Key Terms in the Lead and Copper Rule

Lead Service Line (LSL)

Service lines run underground and connect a home’s plumbing to the water main. As the name suggests, Lead Service Lines are made of lead. Lead’s flexibility enabled easy installation.

After the Safe Drinking Water Act Lead Ban in 1986 forbade high lead levels in plumbing and water infrastructure, service lines were made of copper, galvanized steel, or PVC pipe. That said, millions of LSLs still exist in the U.S. today. While lead appears in other areas of the home - like faucets or paint - LSLs constitute the most significant source of lead contamination in communities.

a diagram of a water service line
Source: University of Michigan Lead and Copper project FAQ

Corrosion control treatment (CCT)

Lead rarely enters the water system through natural sources - like a river or lake - but through lead flaking off of pipes. Since so many LSLs still exist today, water systems use chemicals to reduce this lead flaking. This is called corrosion control treatment (CCT).

CCT is one reason why the LCR and its revisions are complicated, because every water system has a different water chemistry and requires a custom CCT design and implementation. If CCT doesn’t keep lead levels low, a water system must intervene through CCT optimization, customer outreach, or lead service line replacement.

a water treatment facility

Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR)

Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) occurs when a resident or water system replaces part or all of the LSL connecting a home to the water main.

Usually, an LSL has a customer-side and utility-side - and a water system isn’t responsible to pay for a homeowner’s portion of the line. With split ownership, the replacement process is complex and can take many forms. For instance, a partial LSLR may occur if the resident replaces their portion of the LSL independently and doesn’t involve the water system. On the other hand, a homeowner may be unable to afford LSLR, so a water system only replaces the utility side of the line.

In the end, full LSLR requires coordination and funding on both sides of the service line.

lead service line replacement: the directional boring technique
One Technique for Lead Service Line Replacement. Source: Denver Water
lead service line replacement: the pull-through technique
Another Technique for Lead Service Line Replacement. Source: Denver Water

LSL inventory

An LSL inventory is a record maintained by a water system of all service lines in a community. This record includes the material type for each service line: lead, galvanized steel in need of replacement (if it was ever downstream of a lead line), non-lead (e.g., plastic or copper), or lead status unknown.

Recently implemented in the LCRR, LSL inventories highlight how much lead is present in a community, determine what actions a water system must take, inform LSLR, and provide the public key information concerning lead risks.

For more on this requirement, check out our blog, Lead Service Line Inventories: Everything You Need to Know.

a pile of lead service lines removed through lslr

Lead sampling:

On the surface, lead sampling is pretty straightforward: a utility fills up a container with drinking water from a home, school, or other building to test for the presence of lead.

Though the concept is simple, the precise rules for lead sampling are more complicated. The LCRR specifies where, how, to what extent, for whom, and when lead sampling needs to be conducted. If lead levels are higher than the EPA’s standards, a water system must intervene. 

water flowing from a tap into a glass

Ultimately, the regulations in the LCRR are all related: requirements like lead sampling or the LSL inventory determine which actions are taken - CCT, LSLR, public education, the distribution of water filters, etc - and how success is measured.

With this in mind, we can examine the EPA’s rules. Let’s begin with the original Lead and Copper Rule from 1991. This rule forms the basis for the current LCRR and future LCRI.

What is the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)?

In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) granted the EPA authority to set national standards for drinking water, forbid the use of lead in pipes and plumbing, and paved the way for the Lead and Copper Rule.

The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) was issued in 1991 and established national requirements for lead sampling, CCT, LSLR, public education, and community awareness. Replacing an interim rule from 1975, the LCR was the first federal law overseeing lead and copper levels.

In the past, the federal government issued non-enforceable standards for lead in drinking water while states created the requirements. With the LCR, however, states can only develop requirements that are stricter than the EPA’s standards, not less.

What were the LCR’s requirements?

The LCR’s primary focus was CCT, lead sampling, and establishing a lead “action level” for water systems - though LSLR is included as a final resort if lead levels don’t improve.

The Lead and Copper Rule:

  • Set a goal to remove all lead from drinking water
  • Required water systems to collect water samples from areas with LSLs or lead plumbing
  • Created a 15 µg/liter lead “action level” mandating water systems intervene if lead levels surpassed this mark 
  • Ordered LSLR and public education if water systems weren’t able to stay below the “action level” through advanced CCT

The EPA made revisions to the LCR in 2000, 2004, and 2007, but these changes concerned implementation and didn’t revise the fundamentals of the rule. The EPA saved major changes for 30 years down the road with the LCRR.

a lead service line connecting to the meter in a home

For more on the LCR’s requirements, check out our Quick Reference Guide exploring how the LCR compares to the current LCRR and future LCRI.

How successful was the LCR?

Lead exposure from drinking water has fallen precipitously since the EPA issued the LCR:

  • In fact, 97% of water systems haven’t reported exceeding this “action level” in the last three years

Over the last fifty years, the LCR along with other federal regulation has significantly reduced lead levels in children’s blood:

Water systems, states, and the EPA have made remarkable progress in getting lead out of communities and keeping children safe through the LCR. That said, work still remains to reach the LCR’s goal of zero lead in drinking water. In particular, lower income areas, historically marginalized neighborhoods, and communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by lead.

What’s wrong with the LCR?

The LCR has always been a controversial rule - critiqued both by communities that demand more robust requirements and water systems who don’t have the resources to comply.

We dive into a more detailed comparison of the LCR and LCRR in our Quick Reference Guide, but it’s worth considering a few major shortcomings the EPA’s identified in the 1991 rule:

  • The LCR allowed water systems to halt LSLR after two rounds of bi-annual samplings below the “action level” - so water systems could wait for passing results by leveraging delays built elsewhere in the law (CCT studies and approval, LSL material lists, etc.) and effectively postpone or avoid LSLR entirely. In the end, the EPA concluded “very few water systems” conducted LSLR programs under the rule.
  • The LCR didn’t require full LSLR for a water system to document a replacement. This incentivized a water system to only replace their portion of the LSL. These partial LSLRs not only leave LSLs on the customer-side - a persistent health risk - but also threaten residents by shaking lead loose in the customer-owned line in the replacement process.
  • The LCR permitted water systems to “test out” an LSL if a sample from the service line fell below the lead “action level” - counting the service line as replaced even when an LSL remained in the ground.

In short, the LCR offered loopholes for water systems looking to avoid expensive LSLR. While the LCR made progress in lowering lead levels through careful monitoring and CCT, it failed to remove the source of the lead itself: LSLs. There are many other improvements in the LCRR, but its primary focus is addressing this shortcoming and actually getting the lead out of the ground through full LSLR.

What’s the history of the LCRR?

The LCRR’s been a long time coming.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) mandates periodic review of rulings and requires any future revision “maintain, or provide for greater, protection of the health of persons.” In other words, the LCR was a starting point, not the final word on lead regulation.

a drop hitting a pool of clean water

As far back as 2004, the EPA organized a workshop to identify both short and long term revisions to the rule. The short-term changes were implemented in 2007, and it wasn’t until 2021 - after over a decade of engagements with stakeholders (e.g., NDWAC, SAB, ASDWA) - that the EPA finally issued the long-term revisions.

What are the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR)?

The Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) introduce three new major requirements for public water systems:

1. Testing in schools and childcare facilities

2. Comprehensive and publicly available Lead Service Line inventories

3. A “trigger level” for lead sampling to initiate mitigation at lower lead levels.

Additionally, the LCRR strengthens existing measures, including corrosion control treatment, lead service line replacement, lead sampling, customer outreach, and public education.

The EPA implemented the LCRR on December 16, 2021, and the first compliance date is October 16, 2024. 

What are the LCRR’s requirements?

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a key difference between the LCRR and LCR: the recent revisions focus on getting the lead out of communities instead of merely monitoring and minimizing the impact of existing lead pipes.

a man using a computer to process compliance paperwork

The Lead and Copper Rule Revisions:

  • Require water systems to test drinking water at schools and childcare facilities to protect children, the most at-risk demographic
  • Mandate a public LSL inventory of all service lines in a water system and incentivize thorough documentation and inspections by counting “lead status unknown” and “galvanized in need of replacement” within the tally of LSLs
  • Improve the reliability of lead sampling by specifying how samples must be collected and changing the collection process
  • Implement a “find-and-fix” requirement to better identify and mitigate high lead levels at individual homes
  • Retain the lead “action level” of 15 µg/liter while adding a “trigger level” of 10 µg/liter
  • Better protect the public and jumpstart LSLR through more robust education and community awareness
  • Replace the 7% annual LSLR rate with a 3% annual LSLR rate, apply this rate to the “action level” exceedance, extend this program period from a minimum of 1 to 2 years, and leave it up to states to determine the replacement rate when the “trigger level” is exceeded 
  • Require full LSLR for documented replacements, mandate full LSLR if a customer is replacing their portion of the LSL, and close loopholes used to delay, avoid, or “test-out” of service line replacements
  • Strengthen CCT requirements through treatment re-optimization, studies, and flexible solutions for small water systems

In the end, the EPA describes these revisions as “a proactive, holistic approach to more aggressively manage lead in drinking water.”

For more on the LCRR’s requirements, check out our Quick Reference Guide exploring the differences between the LCR, LCRR, and LCRI.

How will the LCRR affect water quality?

At the heart of the EPA’s requirements is full LSLR.

The EPA advocates transparency, accuracy, and communication to ensure more customers understand the risks associated with LSLs and demand replacement. Over the next 35 years, the EPA estimates community awareness and LSL inventories alone could drive the replacement of between 213,500 and 350,000 LSLs. And when all of the revisions are taken into account, the EPA anticipates a total of 339,000 to 555,000 LSLRs in this 35-year period. Funding from the EPA’s State Revolving Fund could support 150,000 of these LSLRs.

These are significant gains when compared to the limited service line replacements under the previous LCR.

Nevertheless, the LCRR is a controversial piece of regulation. It’s valuable to review the LCRR’s rocky implementation to understand where the revisions fall short and what lies ahead in the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI).

Why did the LCRR compliance dates change?

It’s easy to be confused by the EPA’s multiple rulings in 2021 and the shifting compliance and implementation dates of the LCRR, but these changes are critical to understanding LCRI.

Ultimately, 2021’s delays reveal the LCRI was born from a web of regulatory, political, and economic pressures.

While the LCRR’s been in development for decades - the Biden administration’s reversal of Trump policies, focus on marginalized communities, and historic infrastructure funding bills have transformed the future of the Lead and Copper Rule.

Let’s unpack this context:

  • 2018: The White House includes the LCRR as a key objective in a federal action plan focused on protecting children from lead. Already, the EPA has gathered feedback on revisions for over a decade.
  • January 15, 2021: The EPA officially implements the LCRR and sets January 15, 2024 as the initial compliance date. This follows guidance in the SWDA that compliance should be scheduled three years after implementation to provide water systems and states enough time to comply.
  • January 25, 2021: The Biden-Harris White House issues Executive Order 13990, which requires federal agencies - like the EPA - to assess whether rules developed under the previous administration sufficiently listen to science, protect the environment, and safeguard public health. As a result, the EPA must review 48 of its rules, including the LCRR.
  • March 12, 2021: Because of Executive Order 13990, the EPA delays implementation of the LCRR until June 16, 2021, and requests comment on whether the rule should be further delayed until December 16, 2021. Delaying until December provides an opportunity to seek public feedback on the rule from communities that are directly impacted by lead.
  • March 31, 2021: The White House releases the American Jobs Plan, which proposes to replace all lead pipes and service lines throughout the country with $111 billion in EPA State Revolving Funds, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) grants, and other low-cost flexible loans and grants.
  • June 16, 2021: The EPA officially extends the LCRR’s implementation date to December, and confirms the new compliance date is October 16, 2024. The EPA also schedules public engagements to ensure the LCRR adequately protects public health. In feedback the EPA received following the March rule, the majority of stakeholders agreed with this extension and raised concerns with LCRR requirements.
  • December 16, 2021: Arguing the LCRR is an important step forward, the EPA decides to re-implement the rule and keep with the compliance date of October 16, 2024. However, they acknowledge shortcomings in the LCRR and announce a host of non-regulatory actions along with improvements to the rule. The Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) will be implemented prior to the initial compliance date in 2024.
  • December 16, 2021: The White House announces a plan to replace all the lead pipes in the U.S. in the next decade through the American Rescue Plan, the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the not-yet-passed Build Back Better Act, and coordination between federal agencies. This plan cements lead pipe replacement as a key priority for the Biden-Harris administration.

In 2021, there was a perfect storm: historic water regulation hit political realignment and a national debate on U.S. infrastructure. Now, the LCRR is one piece in a broader strategy to transform U.S. water infrastructure and get the lead out of communities.

Significantly, the Lead and Copper Rule will be revised again - this time within three years, not three decades.

Why is the EPA improving the LCRR? What’s wrong with it?

The LCRR’s always been controversial.

In fact, the revisions were challenged in court when initially implemented in January. The LCRR may be a major step forward - especially when compared to 1991’s LCR - but the EPA acknowledges more needs to be done.

EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The EPA summarizes critical feedback on the revisions throughout its rulings in 2021. It’s valuable to explore the top ten most common criticisms of the LCRR in these documents:

  1. Partial LSLR: Though the LCRR doesn’t count partial LSLR as an official replacement, it doesn’t do enough to encourage or require full LSLR.
  1. Equitable LSLR: Lower-income homeowners in the communities most affected by lead can’t afford LSLR, and there aren’t adequate resources in place to support them. To meet annual replacement rates, water systems may be incentivized to replace service lines only for those who can afford it on the customer-side. This exacerbates existing inequities.
  1. Lead Levels: The “trigger level” and “action level” aren’t low enough. They aren’t health-based measures, and they promote toxic lead levels. Also, the addition of the lead “trigger level” overly complicates the sampling and mitigation processes.
  1. Annual LSLR Rate: The annual LSLR rate of 3% is lower than the original LCR’s 7% rate. The annual LSLR rate should be increased because replacing every lead pipe in the U.S. will take decades under the LCRR’s current rate.
  1. Renters: The LCRR doesn’t address renters. If a landlord avoids the expense of a LSLR, this leaves renters exposed to lead pipes.
  1. Underinvested Communities: If water systems replace LSLs encountered in routine work, this privileges communities where this work is completed - delaying LSLR in underinvested areas that need it most.
  1. LSL Inventories: The LSL inventory requirement should include lead connectors, needs a deadline for LSL material identification, and doesn’t provide enough information to the public. On the other hand, these inventories also put too much pressure on water systems who will struggle to find the necessary information.
  1. Small Water Systems: Too much flexibility is given to small water systems. At the same time, small water systems have limited resources and will struggle to meet the current requirements.
  1. Customer Communication: The public education and notification requirements need streamlining to be feasible for water systems. Additionally, materials need to be accessible and include outreach to renters.
  1. Child-Care & Schools: The coordination between water systems and child-care facilities and schools needs to be improved, these facilities need funding if they are going to support testing and mitigation, and the requirements for a water system’s lead sampling, public education, and mitigation measures at these sites aren’t robust enough.

With these criticisms in mind, the EPA has announced upcoming improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule along with non-regulatory actions intended to equitably protect public health.

a compliance box being checked off by a green pen

What non-regulatory actions is the EPA taking?

The EPA announced six non-regulatory actions to address stakeholder concerns and fulfill the White House’s ambitious clean water plan:

  1. Equitable Funding: The EPA will use several funding resources - DSRF, WIFIA, WIIN - and billions of dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to issue grants for lead remediation. Notably, the EPA will collaborate with states, tribes, and other stakeholders to ensure small and disadvantaged communities get access to these funds.
  1. Federal Collaboration: The EPA has limited authority over schools and childcare facilities that may not choose to participate in voluntary lead sampling and remediation. The EPA will collaborate with federal agencies and other partners to support these facilities with funding and other resources. 
  1. Community Assistance: To protect disadvantaged communities, the EPA is partnering with states and tribes to improve oversight of CCT and lead sampling while providing technical assistance to areas that are disproportionately impacted by LSLs.
  1. Community Awareness: The EPA will also provide guidance and templates to states, tribes, and water systems to improve communication on lead risks. Plus, they’ll begin revisions on the Consumer Confidence Report Rule, so the public is aware of CCT programs, when a water system exceeds an “action level,” and which mitigation measures are underway.
  1. Water System Support: Since LSL inventories are one of the most challenging requirements in the LCRR for water systems, the EPA will offer guidance on creating these inventories and update the Safe Drinking Water Information System. This guidance will include best practices, case studies, templates, and information on data analytics and other methods.
  1. Advocacy for Full LSLR: One of the primary criticisms of the LCRR is it does not require full LSLR. To remedy this, the EPA will discourage partial LSLR, support proactive full LSLR programs, and advocate for vulnerable communities. The EPA will offer resources on program development and methods (including tools, best practices, case studies, etc.) while continuing to connect people with available funding.

It remains to be seen whether these actions are intended to satisfy stakeholder concerns - with only minor revisions in the LCRI - or if the EPA plans more significant changes to the Lead and Copper Rule.

When viewed in light of other EPA documents, however, these non-regulatory actions do provide clues to potential requirements in the LCRI and help illuminate the future of water regulation in the U.S.

What are the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI)?

As we noted earlier, the Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) are changes to the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR). The LCRI will help fulfill the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of replacing all lead pipes in the U.S., address concerns raised by stakeholders during the EPA’s public engagement in 2021, and comply with Executive Order 13990.

a blue water tower against a cloudy sky

The EPA is still preparing the LCRI and will issue the new regulation before the LCRR’s initial compliance date: October 16, 2024.

Significantly, the EPA’s already shared it will likely delay the October compliance date for the LSLR and tap sampling plans because of upcoming changes to these requirements. The EPA’s also noted they’re seeking guidance on whether to shorten the SDWA’s recommended three year implementation-to-compliance window for the LCRI - so public health improvements aren’t delayed any longer than necessary.

The exact contents of the LCRI aren’t yet released, but the EPA’s described four key focus areas for the regulation:

  1. Replacing all LSLs
  1. Improving lead sampling
  1. Demystifying the “action” and “trigger” levels for water systems and reconsidering the necessity of the “trigger” level
  1. Ensuring equitable LSLR

The EPA has provided little detail on the specific requirements that will achieve these objectives. Judging from EPA and White House documents, there appear to be two possible paths forward.

For a more detailed look at potential requirements in the LCRI, check out our Quick Reference Guide: LCR vs. LCRR vs. LCRI.

Will the LCRI entail significant revision to the Lead and Copper Rule?

Let’s take a moment to consider two hypothetical scenarios:

Scenario 1: The LCRI publishes minor changes to the LCRR to help satisfy a few key stakeholder concerns

There’s reason to believe the LCRI won’t be as dramatic as 2021’s LCRR:

  • Timing: The LCRR took nearly two decades to develop. Major federal regulation requires careful deliberation and years of research and requests for comment. Water systems and states are already getting to work on compliance for the LCRR. With only three years to implement, the LCRI is more likely to involve minor revisions that have already been discussed in previous rules. Plus, the fact the EPA may shorten the three year compliance window for the LCRI suggests the rule changes may be minor - since they don’t seem overly concerned an accelerated schedule would put too much pressure on water systems or states.
  • Scope: Though the EPA’s four focus areas for the LCRI may be vague, there’s no call for revolutionary reform. For instance, the EPA specifically describes assessing whether to remove the lead “trigger level” to ease the rule’s complexity. The emphasis here is on easing confusion and simplifying implementation, not on dramatically lowering the “action level” itself.
  • Political Momentum: The EPA’s LCRI is a product of the White House’s Executive Order 13990, broader infrastructure push, and specific Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. Consequently, the EPA may feel less pressure to transform the LCRR if the Biden-Harris administration shifts their focus to other areas. With the Build Back Better Act stalled and the public distracted by COVID-19 and rising inflation, it’s possible lead pipe replacement won’t garner the momentum it’d need to pressure significant revision to the LCRR.
  • Feasibility: If the EPA could require all lead be removed from communities instantly, they would. But stakeholders - water systems, states, schools, childcare facilities, and homeowners - don’t have the funding or resources to do that. Replacing every LSL alone would cost between $25 and $56 billion - and this would take many years. It’s a simple point but an important one. When an advocacy group pushes for a lower “action level”, the EPA must balance whether compliance would be realistic for both large and small water systems.

On the other hand, the EPA faces significant federal and public pressure to get lead out of communities within years, not decades - which could prompt a dramatic revision to the LCRR.

a lead service line replacement using copper pipe
Source: DC Water

Scenario 2: The LCRI aggressively revises 2021’s LCRR to get 100% of lead pipes out of the ground as fast as possible

  • Timing: Yes, the EPA has only three years to implement the LCRI, but the LCRR was developed in a comparable time window. Though revisions were on the table for years, the Flint water crisis in 2014 was a key force behind the LCRR, and the EPA had a draft of the Lead and Copper Rule revisions within five years of Flint. This quick turnaround following Flint suggests the LCRI’s three-year window doesn’t mean the LCRI will be any less impactful. In fact, much of the legwork for the LCRI has already been accomplished: the EPA can draw on 2021’s public engagements and the two decades of feedback leading up to the LCRR. All that remains is running economic and environmental analyses, drafting the rule, and requesting a round of feedback.
  • Scope: The EPA acknowledges the LCRR will replace approximately 339,000 to 555,000 LSLs over a 35-year period. This is a mere 5% of the 6.3 to 9.3 million existing lead lines. And it’s important to note water systems initiate the majority of these replacements only after lead levels surpass the “trigger” or “action” levels - which means communities have already been exposed to dangerous levels of lead. It’s unlikely the EPA will let this situation stand considering the emphasis on full LSLR in EPA documents, public pressure from affected communities, and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan to replace all lead pipes.
  • Political Momentum: The Biden-Harris administration describes replacing 100% of lead pipes as a “centerpiece” of their infrastructure plan - yet the LCRR falls short in achieving this goal in a timely manner. The challenge of other issues - like COVID-19 or inflation - is more reason for the White House to broadcast their central achievement: infrastructure work. Plus, the EPA’s argued a key outcome of the LCRR is community awareness. And with this community awareness of lead risks across the U.S., there’ll be even greater pressure to accelerate lead service line replacements. Just as the water crisis in Flint expedited revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, the LCRR’s improvements to public education will likely inspire further criticism of the LCRR itself.
  • Feasibility: Where there’s money, there’s a way. Already, the federal government is investing billions of dollars into clean water. If some form of the Build Back Better Act passes, this amount will likely increase significantly. When the EPA developed the LCRR, these clean water funds weren’t announced. With more money on the table, what is feasible for water systems and states has changed. Also, states have shown stricter requirements can be implemented successfully: states with the highest numbers of LSLs - Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey - have already required proactive full LSLR. It’s possible the EPA may follow their lead.

Our Argument: With these two scenarios in mind, it’s more likely than not the EPA will accelerate Lead Service Line Replacement significantly

Yes, the EPA may land somewhere between minor revisions and dramatic overhaul, but there’s a strong argument to be made they’ll lean toward major changes. Here’s a simple equation that’s applied in the past: Public Pressure + Nonpartisan Support + Unprecedented Federal Funding = Historic Change

With the pressure to replace 100% of lead pipes, the EPA may require proactive full replacement of LSLs, ban partial LSLR, or increase the 3% annual replacement rate. And because the requirements in the LCRR are all intertwined, the EPA’s goal of expanding LSLR may affect the entire law. For instance, the EPA may choose to strengthen the LSL inventory requirements, further improve sampling, or lower the lead “action level” to further accelerate LSLR.

This leaves a key question: What can states and public water systems do to prepare for the LCRI?

For an in-depth analysis of potential revisions in the LCRI, check out our Quick Reference Guide exploring the precise differences between the LCR, LCRR, and LCRI.

How States and Water Systems Can Prepare for the LCRI

While little is known about the LCRI, this doesn’t mean states and water systems can’t prepare.

The best strategy is getting compliant with the current LCRR as quickly as possible. By getting ahead on LSL inventories, for instance, water systems will have a strong foundation when the LCRI is published. This is especially true if water systems leverage innovative technologies to streamline the compliance process. Complying with the LCRR and adapting the LCRI is less expensive and time-intensive with digitized records, nimble work management, powerful analytics, and cloud-based collaboration.

Ultimately, achieving a clean water future starts with data.

Learn how Unearth is partnering with the EPA to help water systems build LSL inventories and optimize LSLR on a mobile map-based platform. Small and large systems need next-generation tools to remain compliant and get the lead out of their communities fast.

Discover Unearth's software for Lead and Copper Rule compliance.

Unearth's lead service line software on a laptop
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