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Federal-State Policies Promote Stronger Action on Clean Drinking Water in Schools

Alexandria, VA – Recent federal and state action shows bipartisan consensus on the need to do more to ensure clean drinking water in schools and communities, according to a new NASBE analysis. The report highlights ways state leaders can leverage the current policy climate and available federal funds to better support school districts in lead remediation so that all children have access to clean drinking water in schools.

Congress delayed action on the Biden administration’s broader domestic policy agenda, but two bills that the U.S. Senate approved in 2021 could increase investment in lead testing and remediation: the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which share similar language on safe drinking water. If signed into law, the bills could provide a springboard for states seeking to remove lead from drinking water and make children’s learning environments safer, argues NASBE’s Joseph Hedger, who wrote the analysis.

There is no safe level of lead exposure for children, and no federal law compels schools or school districts to test their drinking water for lead. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead and Copper Rule revisions, which take effect this December, include a new “trigger level” of 10 parts per billion for determining how much lead or copper can be present in water before action to treat or replace the water system must be taken. It also requires public water system administrators to identify lead service lines and test for lead at schools and child care programs within their service areas for better target monitoring and potential service line replacement.

At the state level, the New Jersey and Georgia state boards of education recently addressed school water testing policies and leveraged federal grants from EPA to broaden lead testing in their states.

“State boards of education can take this opportunity to advocate to other state and federal agencies for clear guidance on how schools and school districts can apply for funds and maintain safe facility practices, support grant funding and state requirements for school testing, and ask questions of state agencies to prioritize remediation efforts in schools where children are most at risk for lead exposure,” writes Hedger.

Read and share “Using Federal Funds to Remediate Lead.” And join us for a webinar on Wednesday, November 3, for the release of a NASBE landscape analysis of state policy and best practices for addressing lead in drinking water at schools.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at




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