Reduction in water consumption in premise plumbing systems: Impacts on lead concentration under different water qualities

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Mar 23;162975. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162975. Online ahead of print.


Water conservation measures are increasing in response to regulatory requirements addressing the need for lower environmental footprint and in response to water shortages. In households with lead service lines (LSLs), lowering consumption can adversely impact lead release as it will increase stagnation. Using a lead dissolution model and data from extensive pilot studies on excavated LSLs, the impact of adaptation to different water conservation strategies on dissolved lead contamination at the kitchen tap is assessed under three water qualities and three LSL lengths (3, 14 and 30 m) using hydraulic and water quality modelling. Consumers' behavioural variability is also assessed based on integration of EPANET and results of the stochastic water demand model SIMDEUM. Demand reduction increased the dissolved lead concentrations (Pbdiss) at the end of the LSL with mean values ranging from 28.4 to 63.3 μg/L (without corrosion control) and from 4.6to 9.9 μg/L with corrosion control (addition of orthophosphate and pH adjustment). Adding orthophosphate (1 mg P/L) to the water reduces the mean Pbdiss values at the kitchen tap from 7.1 μg/L to 1.2 μg/L for a high water demand scenario and from 31.2 to 4.9 μg/L for a low water demand scenario. Finally, the Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic (IEUBK) model is used to predict the potential blood lead levels (BLLs) for children aged 0-84 months. Results showed that the orthophosphate addition of only 1 mg P/L can significantly decrease the proportion of children with a BLL >5 μg/dL, from 82 % to 17 %, under the most extreme water conservation scenario studied, using the 90th percentile of Pbdiss concentrations during usage at kitchen tap. Wide variations of Pbdiss concentrations at the kitchen tap were calculated at times of use over a week (up to 155 μg/L in lower demand scenarios, without corrosion control) showing evident limitations of single random daytime sampling.

Keywords: Corrosion control; Lead dissolution model; Lead service line; Water conservation; Water quality modelling.