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.
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.14 signatures
By Tara Lohan
Read the Full Story HERE
Water Agencies and environmental groups alike have come together to laud the State Water Resources Control Board for its recent passage of a new Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for the known carcinogen, 1,2,3-TCP. The persistent, insidious chemical is now set to be regulated at five parts per trillion, which is said to be the most health-protective limit possible.
Affected communities primarily reside in California's South-Central Valley, where companies like Shell and Dow used insecticidal soil fumigants that leeched into groundwater. Cities are now engaging in litigation to hold these companies accountable for their pollution of drinking water for millions of Californians. In fact, Andria Ventura of Clean Water Action said Shell and Dow “...knew early on they had something in their product that was unnecessary and was toxic."
The problem that remains, however, is ensuring that some of California's small, aging, or otherwise disadvantaged communities have the funds to treat their water or are able to secure them, and that their already limited resources are not stretched too thin.
Even preliminary studies indicate that a changing global climate will have vastly-important implications on droughts, agriculture, patterns of precipitation, the density of the snowpack, and the health of our once-thriving freshwater delta. The Community Water Center has compiled a list resources and studies that explain how California's Central Valley might be affected if significant action is not taken.
- A Water Adaptation Guide, prepared in accordance with current threats on water treatment and management, that provides details on how some of California's most vulnerable communities might be affected.
- A Drought Equity Report which analyzes how the drought has affected (and continues to affect) some of California’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The report analyzes water shortages, price hikes, and structural barriers to achieving universal access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water for all Californians.
- A Water Resources Factsheet, composed by the Department of Water Resources, with details on how warmer temperatures will effect regional weather patterns and infrastructure
- A California Drought Factsheet, with information on how the most severe conditions were exacerbated by a changing global climate. Historical Data, as well as current and future trends for Severe Weather Events
- A California Water Infrastructure Factsheet, with information on where California’s water comes from, as well as how its insufficient water storage and filtration infrastructure will be strained during periods of climate variability.
- A Climate Change Threat List, with information on California’s unique position as a “Green State” amidst a climate-denying administration, as well as long-range planning and bond measure information.
- An Immediate Threat Factsheet, prepared by the Public Policy Institute of California, with extensive information regarding flood planning and conservation of endangered and keystone species. Also includes an assessment of current goals and climate change plans in California.
- A Sustainable Cities Study, researched and prepared by the University of Southern California, with extensive analysis on the drought- and flood-readiness of cities throughout California and the burgeoning threats they may face in the coming years due to Climate Change.
- A Conjunctive Use Study, prepared by the United States Geological Survey, outlining the impacts that climate change will have on groundwater. The study places particular emphasis on recharge, discharge, and groundwater withdrawals.
Former Health-Protective Limit on Carcinogen Under Review
On Tuesday, August 1, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board met to discuss the proposed resolution to delete the text of regulations establishing and implementing a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) on hexavalent chromium, a previously-regulated carcinogen. Following the Superior Court of Sacramento County’s May 31, 2017 decision to invalidate the prior MCL due to a “failure to properly consider economic feasibility,” the State Water Board was ordered to reconsider and adopt a new MCL after economic analysis. Though the ruling did not take a stance on whether or not the previously instated MCL was economically unfeasible, if it adequately protected public health, or what the MCL’s proper value should be, the State Water Board was left to return to the drawing board.
While the State Water Board disagreed with the court’s decision that the initial Maximum Contaminant Level was not well considered financially, it decided not to appeal the court’s decision. Instead, the board voted unanimously to suspend current enforcement while a new MCL is drafted, though it lauded the aggressive work of several water districts who had already begun treatment for the toxic compound.
During the public comment period, the Board listened to concerns from a diverse audience on everything from their public water system’s ability to afford new treatment mechanisms, to hosting meetings in Southern California to ensure community participation, to the consideration of consequences that a new MCL may have on small, poor, and aging communities that lack pre-existing infrastructure.
In the coming months, the Board will establish a new MCL for hexavalent chromium while taking into account the many constraints that communities, water districts, and stakeholders voiced in discussion of the new MCL.
CWC will be closely tracking the MCL establishment process for hexavalent chromium. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Debi Ores at 916-706-3346 or Deborah.Ores@CommunityWaterCenter.org.