Districts and schools across California looking for help with drinking water projects are encouraged to apply for funding through the State Water Resources Control Board. The agency has a program that provides $9.5 million in grants to increase access to safe drinking water by replacing fixtures containing lead, among other issues, and a local grant match is not required.
A list of eligible districts is available here (Excel document), but schools serving disadvantaged communities may still be eligible even if the district is not. The application deadline for the Drinking Water for Schools Grant Program is March 1, 2019, with more information on the process available on the Water Boards website. The minimum grant amount is $25,000 per applicant, with a maximum of $100,000 per school and $1 million per district or county office of education. So far, about 40 districts have applied.
July 1, 2019 is also an important deadline for water quality projects on school campuses. Testing for lead in drinking water at all K-12 schools must be completed by that date, meaning the State Water Boards’ Division of Drinking Water will begin enforcement action to water systems that have not contacted the schools and completed testing. Schools built before 1986, when the Safe Drinking Water Act reduced the amount of lead content in water, are especially likely to have older water infrastructure.
Types of projects that quality for the grant funds include installing new or replacing water-bottle filling stations or drinking fountains; installing new water treatment devices, and repairing or replacing drinking water and plumbing fixtures to address lead contamination concerns. Funds can also cover the costs of interim solutions such as bottled water or hauled water while projects are being completed. Additionally, technical assistance is available for eligible applicants serving 20,000 people or less.
California has the highest number of schools in the nation with unsafe drinking water, Elizabeth Jones noted in a 2016 article in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal titled “Drinking Water in California Schools: An Assessment of the Problems, Obstacles, and Possible Solutions.” That fact exists, Jones writes, despite the fact that in 2012, California passed a bill declaring that every human being has a right to “safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water.”