Wisconsin's leader in lead service line replacement for safer drinking water

Fehr Graham leads a lead service line replacement project in Monroe, Wisconsin.

In 2020, Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 9,600 children younger than 16 were poisoned by lead. The same year, the Public Service Commission estimated the number of lead service lines statewide at 173,052. Since then, community leaders have raised the priority levels on lead service line replacement projects to mitigate the threat of lead poisoning from drinking water and to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for the Lead and Copper Rule.

Municipal leaders anticipate a $48 million federal funding boost from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will strengthen initiatives to help ensure safe, clean and lead-free water across Wisconsin. This award supplements $63 million in federal support from the 2019 Water Infrastructure Funding Transfer Act, which funds the Lead Service Line (LSL) Replacement Program through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The money from BIL could shore up funding and labor shortages in Wisconsin communities and accelerate the state's pace to complete LSL replacements.

Below we discuss state funding sources for Wisconsin lead service line replacements and how Fehr Graham can help communities replace these water lines to ensure clean, lead-free drinking water.

Funding for Wisconsin lead service line replacement

In most cases, property owners and water suppliers jointly own water service lines. The question of ownership can complicate the LSL replacement process when legal constraints hinder projects on private properties. Partial service line replacements are not an option. They are banned because they increase lead levels in drinking water for long periods.

While state and federal agencies amplify the urgency of ensuring lead-free drinking water statewide, the scope and complexity of LSL replacement projects presents challenges for leaders in smaller communities. The sense of overwhelm surrounding the issue has prompted some state organizations to offer funding opportunities, project oversight and community support, as summarized in the table below.

Wisconsin funding sources
Public Service Commission (PSC) lead service line replacement

Created by the 1907 Public Utilities Law, the Public Service Commission defines and regulates public utilities throughout Wisconsin. Under this aegis, the PSC supports collaborations between municipalities, utilities, local health departments and customers to replace LSLs. Replacing utility-owned infrastructure containing lead (e.g., mains, goosenecks and service lines) does not require Commission approval. However, utility suppliers must file an application and receive PSC approval before providing customer financial assistance to execute customer-side LSL replacements.
  • Utility suppliers
  • Financial assistance
  • Interviews owners and/or occupants.
  • Customer-side (private) LSL replacements
Wisconsin DNR Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP)

This program provides funding to municipalities for lead service line replacements of publicly owned infrastructure. The Wisconsin Environment Improvement Fund (EIF) is a state revolving fund that combines federal EPA capitalization grants and state funds to offer subsidized, reduced-interest loans. Eligible municipalities may apply for additional subsidies as principal forgiveness to reduce loan amounts. For the state fiscal year 2024, the regular SDWLP funding cycle will integrate LSL replacement funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
  • Municipalities
  • Federal and state funds combined as low-interest loans and principal forgiveness
  • Publicly owned infrastructure
Wisconsin DNR Private Lead Service Line Replacement Program

The area between the curb stop and the water line connection inside a building or private property is referred to as the private portion of a lead service line. While replacing public portions of a service line is eligible for regular SDWLP funding, the Private Lead Service Line Replacement Program helps municipalities replace private LSLs. Funding for LSL replacements on private property is awarded as principal forgiveness that incurs no debt on behalf of the municipality. Federal legislation makes principal forgiveness funding worth $63 million available to Wisconsin municipalities for replacing LSLs on private properties.
  • Municipalities
  • Principal forgiveness with zero interest
  • Private LSL replacement
EPA’s Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR) Accelerators

A 2023 EPA initiative aims to help underserved communities in Wisconsin access federal funds and receive hands-on support through the LSL removal process for a lead-free water system. From developing replacement project plans and identifying lead pipes to conducting community outreach and providing supporting applications for funding, the LSLR Accelerators initiative provides assistance to Wisconsin communities through each step of the process.
  • Underserved communities
  • Federal funds, technical support and community outreach
  • Inclusive, end-to-end projects

Lead service line replacement is a cost- and labor-intensive process and community leaders must keep themselves updated on legislation to secure timely funds and technical assistance. Teaming with experienced water engineers can ease your navigation through each stage of the lead service line replacement process.

Partnering with water engineers for Wisconsin service line replacement

At Fehr Graham, our dedicated team of experienced water engineers is committed to helping communities access safe drinking water. Our expertise lies in helping municipalities identify and inventory lead service lines, secure funding for lead service line replacement, and manage and oversee construction to provide end-to-end assistance to improve water lines across the state.

To learn more about Wisconsin lead service line replacement and how Fehr Graham can help your community secure funding to replace lead water service lines, contact us or give us a call at 608.329.6400.

Portrait of Jesse Duff Jesse Duff, PE, is a Project Manager who designs and oversees projects for municipalities and state agencies. He leads teams that designs solutions that improve lives and build better communities. He evaluates, collaborates and innovates to get jobs done with efficiency and accuracy. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..