Lithium (Li) is listed in the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5) because insufficient exposure data exists for lithium in drinking water. To help fill this data gap, lithium occurrence in source waters across the United States was assessed in 21 drinking water utilities. From the 369 samples collected from drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs), lithium ranged from 0.9 to 161 μg/L (median = 13.9 μg/L) in groundwater, and from <0.5 to 130 μg/L (median = 3.9 μg/L) in surface water. Lithium in 56% of the groundwater and 13% of the surface water samples were above non-regulatory Health-Based Screening Level (HBSL) of 10 μg/L. Sodium and lithium concentrations were strongly correlated: Kendall's τ > 0.6 (p < 0.001). As sodium is regularly monitored, this result shows that sodium can serve as an indicator to identify water sources at higher risk for elevated lithium. Lithium concentrations in the paired samples collected in source water and treated drinking water were almost identical showing lithium was not removed by conventional drinking water treatment processes. Additional sampling in wastewater effluents detected lithium at 0.8–98.2 μg/L (median = 9.9 μg/L), which suggests more research on impacts of lithium in direct and indirect potable reuse may be warranted, as the median was close to the HBSL. For comparison with the study samples collected from DWTPs, lithium concentrations from the national water quality portal (WQP) database were also investigated. Over 35,000 measurements were collected from waters that could potentially be used as drinking water sources (Cl− < 250 mg/L). Data from WQP had comparable median lithium concentrations: 18 and 20 μg/L for surface water and groundwater, respectively. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive occurrence potential for lithium in US drinking water sources and can inform the data collection effort in UCMR 5.
- Source water
- Surface water
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis