Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Safe Water in Schools: Learn More and Get Involved!

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Want to learn more about what's in your school's water or understand the challenges California schools face in accessing safe water? 

Please sign up below to join our Safe Water in Schools Team. We will keep you up to date about opportunities to test your school's water and apply for funding to receive new, filtered water bottle filling stations.

Water testing: 

Neither the state nor the federal Lead and Copper Rule requires tap water testing in schools, but a new program allows California public schools to request FREE lead testing from their water provider.

Lead contamination of water typically occurs when pipes, faucets, or fixtures that contain lead corrode. Consumption of unsafe water is a serious health risk to children as they are more vulnerable than adults to the health effects of exposure to lead and other contaminants. Drinking lead-contaminated water can cause behavior and learning problems, hearing problems, anemia, and in rare cases, seizures, coma, and even death.

Not taking action is not an option. Your school districts should request testing in writing to take advantage of this opportunity. Proactive testing is the first step towards remediation and protecting children from the harmful and irreversible health effects of lead consumption..

If any samples do show unsafe levels of lead, the water system will discuss with the school remediation options, and staff at the SWRCB are also available to provide support. $9.5 million in grant funding for filtered water stations will be available to schools facing water challenges, such as lead contamination, this year. For more information on the Safe Drinking Water In Schools Program, check out the State Water Resources Control Board's analysis on grants and technical assistance

There may also be additional funding possibilities for school modernization and facilities upgrades related to clean drinking water. Proposition 51, also known as the California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative, was passed in November of 2016, and allocates over $9 billion to schools for safety, new construction, special programs, and modernizing. It is our belief that this money could (and should!) be utilized by school districts to ensure that aging pipes and infrastructure remain within compliance and below Maximum Contaminant Level thresholds, and that private wells become integrated into broader public water systems. Urge your local school's administration to consider applying for funding! 

Here are some fast facts on water quality in California schools, taken from our report "Are We Providing Our School Kids Safe Drinking Water? An Analysis of California Schools Impacted by Unsafe Drinking Water."

  • As many as 1,048,222 students attended schools impacted by water systems that did not meet primary safe drinking water standards during the period from 2003-2014.
  • Bacterial and arsenic violations were the most common types of violations impacting schools, followed by the pesticide DBCP, disinfectant byproducts, and nitrates.
  • Multiple-year violations were found in up to nine percent of schools, with some schools impacted for a decade or more.
  • While the problem exists statewide, the Central Valley had both the greatest number and highest percentage of schools in the region impacted by unsafe drinking water.
  • One in four schools in the Central Valley and one in three schools in the Tulare Lake region were impacted by unsafe drinking water.
  • Schools impacted by unsafe drinking water had higher percentages of Hispanic and Latino students and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
  • State agencies do not currently have access to sufficient information to assess the magnitude of the problem and ensure that children have safe drinking water at school.

Read more: Are We Providing Our School Kids Safe Drinking Water? An Analysis of California Schools Impacted by Unsafe Drinking Water, a report by CWC & the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Please sign up for our Schools Team below so we can keep you in the loop about upcoming opportunities to test your school's water and get funding for safe water bottle filling stations.

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