Education Leaders Report
Volume 7, No. 1
How States Are Handling Lead in School Drinking Water
By the time a child graduates from high school, they will have spent an estimated 15,600 hours at school. Because a significant amount of children’s daily water intake comes from school water fountains, ensuring their access to safe drinking water at school is essential for their overall health. And one key health challenge that schools across the country may face is the presence of lead in drinking water.
Out of a dozen states with available testing data, nearly half of schools discovered lead in their drinking water, according to a 2018 study. Lead can enter a school’s drinking water from pipes, fixtures, and plumbing materials that contain lead.
To date, federal regulations have not required schools or child care facilities to test for lead in drinking water. If finalized, proposed revisions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule will require community water systems to test for lead in the schools and child care facilities they serve (five outlets at schools and two at child care facilities) beginning in October 2024. While there are some mandatory and voluntary testing efforts at the state and local levels, these efforts are not implemented consistently. Additionally, very few of these testing efforts offer schools financial or technical support to mitigate sources of lead in water. …