Drinking Water Safety

The City of Milwaukee water utility, Milwaukee Water Works, provides safe, clean drinking water to homes and businesses throughout the greater Milwaukee area. The City of Milwaukee Health Department works with Milwaukee Water Works to assure drinking water quality and safety for city of Milwaukee residents.

For more information on Milwaukee water treatment and service, visit the Milwaukee Water Works website.

Drinking Water for Sensitive Populations

Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders or suppression (organ transplants, chemotherapy, etc.), should consult with their health care provider about consuming drinking water from a variety of sources including tap water.


Water fluoridation has been accepted as a safe, effective, and inexpensive method of preventing tooth decay. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proper amount of fluoride from infancy throughout life at all ages helps prevent and control tooth decay. Therefore, the Milwaukee Water Works, following public health recommendations, maintains a level of fluoride in Milwaukee drinking water that is both safe and effective. Adding fluoride to municipal drinking water has also been endorsed by the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the U.S Public Health Service.

Notice to Parents of Infants Age 6 Months and Younger

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child's life, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, for optimal short- and long-term health advantages. More information.

As of August 31, 2012, City of Milwaukee water is fluoridated at a level of 0.7 mg/L. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for infants up to 6 months of age, if tap water is fluoridated or has substantial natural fluoride (0.7 mg/L or higher) and is being used to dilute infant formula, a parent may consider using a low-fluoride alternative water source. Bottled water known to be low in fluoride is labeled as purified, deionized, demineralized, distilled, or prepared by reverse osmosis. Ready-to-feed (no-mix) infant formula typically has little fluoride and may be preferable at least some of the time. 

If breastfeeding is not possible, parents should consult a pediatrician about an appropriate infant formula option. Parents should be aware that there may be an increased chance of mild dental fluorosis if the child is exclusively consuming infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. Dental fluorosis is a term that covers a range of visible changes to the enamel surface of the tooth. More information on dental fluorosis and the use of fluoridated drinking water in infant formula.

More information: CDC Community Water Fluoridation (External Link)

Lead Awareness

Lead is not found in Milwaukee’s source of public water. However, lead can enter water as the result of lead containing materials in internal plumbing, or in the service line that brings water to your home. When water stands for several hours or more in fixtures or pipes that contain lead, the lead may leach into the water. It is also possible that physical disturbance of the piping may release lead into the water. 

Since 1996, Milwaukee Water Works has treated its water with ortho-phosphate to reduce the risk of lead leaching from plumbing materials into water. This compound forms a protective coating inside pipes and is considered to be the best practice for the control of lead in drinking water. However, some homes are more at risk for lead in drinking water due to characteristics of the plumbing at the individual residence.

Which homes are most at risk of having lead in drinking water?

While lead is not found in Milwaukee's treated water, lead may dissolve from the service line that brings water to your home or plumbing inside your home. To find out if your home has a lead service line, click here to search for your address or call the Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service line at (414) 286-2830.

Health Effects of Lead

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have determined that lead can pose a significant risk to your health.

The primary source of lead exposure in the Milwaukee community is lead-based paint hazards found in homes. Learn more about the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s work to prevent childhood lead poisoning from lead-based paint hazards.

The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants and young children. Pregnant women should be aware of lead hazards in order to prevent exposure to a developing baby. Studies have linked the effects of lead on the brain to lowered IQ and impaired school performance in children, increased behavior problems and juvenile delinquency, and increased childhood health problems such as speech and language delays, hearing problems, kidney damage, and more. Effects of lead poisoning can be life-long.

No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms. The City of Milwaukee Health Department advises parents and health care providers to follow the “3 before 3” guidance, testing all Milwaukee children for elevated blood lead levels three times before the age of 3. Children under the age of 6 should be tested if they have no history of a blood lead test or are at higher risk for exposure. (See Lead Testing Recommendations) (See Guidelines for Clinicians)

Families who may live in a high-risk home for lead in drinking water, are advised to follow the steps below to reduce risk of exposure.

Steps to Reduce the Risk of Lead in Your Drinking Water

There are several easy things you can do to reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important if you have children under the age of 6, especially bottlefed infants, and pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, or breastfeeding women in the home.

  1. Use a filter certified to remove lead from drinking water. This is especially important when preparing baby formula. Home filtration systems are the most thorough way to reduce or eliminate lead. Be sure to look for products certified by NSF/ANSI under Standard 53 for the removal of lead and follow all manufacturer’s instructions on installation and maintenance. 

    For more information about drinking water filters, click here.

  2. Run your water. Before using tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your plumbing by running the kitchen faucet (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on cold for a minimum of three minutes (or longer if necessary) until the water is noticeably colder. This is especially important if your water has been sitting in your pipes for more than six hours. Not running your water for the recommended length of time may increase your risk of lead exposure.

    To conserve water, you can use this excess for watering household plants or outdoor plants. Showering, doing laundry and flushing the toilet all help clear water from the pipes. Bathing, showering, and doing laundry in water from lead services lines or lead plumbing is safe.

  3. Drink and cook with water from the cold water tap. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve more lead quickly than cold water. Boiling water will not reduce the amount of lead in your drinking or cooking water. You can also consider purchasing bottled water from a known lead-free source for drinking and cooking.

    To conserve water, you may also want to consider filling a clean container(s) with water from the flushed tap, and reserving this water for drinking, cooking, or other consumption.

  4. Inspect your faucet aerator. The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that can catch debris, including particles of lead. It is recommended to periodically remove the aerator and rinse out any debris.

  5. Replace your lead service line or interior plumbing. A licensed plumber will be able to determine if your home’s interior plumbing and fixtures and/or service line are made of lead. When a service line is replaced, City of Milwaukee Ordinance requires that the entire line from the meter int he home to the water main be replaced. If you choose to replace your portion of the lead service line, the City will replace its portion. Please get an estimate from a licensed plumber and call Milwaukee Water Works Customer Service at (414) 286-3820 to coordinate the project. If your lead service line leaks, fails, or is damaged, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the City's Lead Service Line Replacement Program.

In addition, if you are pregnant or have a child under the age of 6 talk to your doctor about lead testing. The City of Milwaukee Health Department advises parents and health care providers to follow the “3 before 3” guidance by testing all children for elevated blood lead levels three times before the age of 3. Children may also need to be tested up to age 6. (See Lead Testing Recommendations) (See Guidelines for Clinicians)

Additional Information on Drinking Water Safety and Lead

Additional information can be found:

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