In the last several years, hundreds of schools across California have been forced to restrict students’ access to drinking water due to lead, nitrate, arsenic, and other serious contaminants. News reports and water quality databases indicate that problems are especially significant in schools in low-income communities of color—where many children already face water quality contamination at home, in public spaces, and in places of worship. It is uncertain exactly how many schools have shut off fountains or are unknowingly allowing students to drink contaminated water because many schools do not test their water. This Note examines the current regulatory landscape governing school water monitoring, contamination notice dissemination, and water quality remediation. Given the regulatory gaps, it also identifies additional tools advocates can use to secure clean water, including complaint procedures and funding processes won through the Williams v. California settlement. The Note’s purpose is to serve as a resource for drinking water advocates across the state as school infrastructure ages and districts struggle to maintain existing water fountains.
Elizabeth Jones received her JD and MS in Environment and Natural Resources from Stanford University in 2016.