Copper in Drinking Water

Copper is a metallic element that is essential to human health.  Too little is unhealthy and too much can lead to copper poisoning. The body cannot synthesize copper so the human diet must supply regular amounts for absorption.

Contaminant  In Water As Maximum Contaminant Level

Copper (Cu)


USEPA Action Level = 1.3 mg/L
WHO† Guideline = 2.0 mg/L

Source of Contaminant

Industrial discharges or from copper salts used for algae control in reservoirs.

Since copper is a common plumbing material, another source of copper is at the point of use due to corrosion.

Potential Health Effects

Acute copper poisoning can cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal illness, abdominal and muscle pain. Severe cases of copper poisoining have led to anemia, liver poisoning, and kidney failure.

Treatment Methods

Point-of-Entry (POE)

Point-of-Use (POU)

  • Reverse Osmosis

  • Distillation

  • Cation Exchange

*Action Level requires water utilities to sample specific number of samples in specific locations and verify that 90% of samples are below this level. If that is not met, an appropriate Action is required to be taken to remedy the situation.

**Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.

WHO† - World Health Organization

Click here to open WQA's Technical Fact Sheet on Copper.

Click here to access all of WQA's Technical Fact Sheets.