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Milwaukee Water Works
Milwaukee Water Works started systematically replacing lead service lines in 2017.
Milwaukee faces a variety of challenges in replacing the remaining 66,000 active residential lead service lines in the city, including limited available funding, contractor capacity, and supply chain issues. Federal funding through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act will bring an estimated $50 million a year to Wisconsin between 2023 and 2027, which is expected boost our effort to replace all lead service lines as quickly as possible.The total cost to replace all of Milwaukee's lead service lines is estimated at around $750 million, based on current costs.
Milwaukee Code of Ordinances § 225-22.5 requires a full replacement of the lead service line, with copper, from the water main that runs under the street to the curb stop (city-owned) and from the curb stop to the meter (customer-owned) in the following situations.
• Child Care Facilities: A licensed group child care center, a licensed family day care center, or a certified child care home.
• Emergencies: When a leak or failure is found on either the customer-owned section or the city-owned section of the lead service line.
• Certain construction projects: When the city-owned section is replaced for any reason, including water main replacement or road reconstruction projects.
Testing of a home's water supply for lead is available to prior to and following each lead service line replacement.
Homeowner's can test their water for lead by contacting a local lab and requesting a lead sampling kit. Click here for more information.
Who pays for the Lead Service Line (LSL) replacement when replacement is required by the City of Milwaukee Ordinance?
The average total cost to replace a lead service line is about $9,600 (the average price fluctuates from year to year). The public side (from the water main to the curb) costs about $4,827 and the private side (from the curb to the water meter inside a home) costs about $4,776.
For required LSL replacements:
For voluntary, owner-initiated LSL replacements:
When a lead service line replacement occurs:
Milwauke Water Works will provide: 1) instructions for how to propertly flush plumbing, and 2) a voucher for a filter pitcher and replacement cartridges to the customer(s) at a property. The filter is to be used for drinking and cooking water while construction work is ongoing, and up to 30 days after the project is completed.
Filters are also provided in the following situations:
A Department of Public Works sewer replacement or street reconstruction is proximate to a property with a lead service line.
If a property has a lead service line, internal plumbing may also be made of lead. Property owners may want to hire a licensed plumber to replace their internal plumbing, in addition to replacing the lead service line.
There is no safe level of lead in the body. Click here to find out more about lead from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Milwaukee Water Works has been adding orthophosphate to Milwaukee's water since 1996.
The image above shows a corroded pipe (center)
and one treated with orthophosphate (right).
Click here to read our corrosion control report presented to the Common Council on March 1, 2022.
This image shows a Milwaukee lead service line
after removal with the protective orthophosphate
barrier clearly visible inside the pipe.
Photo credit: Isaac Wasserman/Wisconsin Watch
Independent lab tests of water collected from Milwaukee homes shows that running your tap for three minutes every morning (or anytime after water has been sitting still inside your lead service line for more than 6 hours) reduces the amount of lead in your water. A typical lead service line is less than 100 feet long, contains less than 5 gallons of water, and costs less than 2 cents to flush. Running your tap for three minutes clears the water that has been sitting in the service line and brings in fresh water from the water main. Water in Lak Michigan (our source water) and in Milwaukee's distribution system contain less than 1 part per billion of lead. The EPA's Action Level for lead is 15ppb. The EPA and public health experts recommend flushing as a proven method to reduce lead risks.
Households with lead service lines whose occupants include the following persons should drink and cook only with tap water filtered with an NSF 53 certified filter:
If you are not using a filter, drink and cook only with water from your cold tap that has been flushed for at least three minutes.
Recommendations for all who have a lead service line:
Lead Service Line Replacement data:
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2023* = 113
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2022 = 991
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2021 = 986
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2020 = 888
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2019 = 1,000
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2018 = 933
Lead Service Lines replaced in 2017 = 622
Total: 2017 - 2023 = 5,533
*2023 figures reflect work completed as of 2/28/23
Check our records to see if a property has a lead service line
Nutrition and health
Click below for helpful documents that you can print at home:
Lead-Safe Water Guide brochure
Guía del agua sin peligro de plomo
Customer Service Center
For billing and related questions:
24-Hour Control Center
For water emergencies only:
Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Room 406, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Monday - Friday, 7:30 AM - 4:45 PM
A Sept 2017 EPA report quantified and compared contributions of lead from air, soil/dust, water and food to children's blood lead levels.
Children living in older homes with lead-based paint hazards by far have the most exposure to lead. For 1- to 6- year olds in the top 90-100 percentile, more than 70% of the lead in their blood was from soil and dust.
The contribution of lead from food was 20% and drinking water was 10%. For infants, soil and dust contribute to 50% of the lead in blood, while 40% was from water and 10% from food.
The EPA is evaluating approaches to setting a health-based benchmark for lead in drinking water.
Together, Let's Get the Lead Out
The Milwaukee Region blends urban living with Midwest ambiance to create the ideal environment in which to make a living and live your life. Our career opportunities, low commute times, diverse neighborhoods, affordable housing, abundant recreational choices and excellent schools may amaze you at first – but you'll get used to them.
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