Drinking water supplies in the United States are among the safest in the world. In most places, the tap water we drink is rigorously regulated and tested and must comply with government standards. Therefore, for most Americans the quality of their tap water is not at all an issue; it is often of higher quality, and surely cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than bottled water.
But, while national, state, or even local statistics will most likely tell you that water in your area is safe to drink, it is more complicated to know for sure how safe the water is at your particular school. This is because water quality varies depending on the source of the water and the pipes and fixtures through which the water flows.
Things to Consider
If tests reveal that your school’s tap water is unsafe, there are a number of solutions. In the short-term, schools can install filtration systems, or, for certain contaminants, flushing pipes can solve the problem. If such simple short-term steps are insufficient, purchasing (or getting donated) bottled water may be a last resort. This option is potentially costly and has environmental concerns associated with plastic bottle waste and the emissions of transporting bottled water.
While long-term solutions would involve ensuring clean groundwater, improving municipal utilities, or replacing old, potentially hazardous plumbing and fixtures, these are also potentially costly and time consuming. State and federal funding may exist for such projects through the federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the California Department of Water Resources.
- Local Utility: If your water comes from a local utility, chances are your water meets all federal and state guidelines. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), municipal utilities met standards more than 92% of the time. Current law requires that local utilities annually publish these reports with information about contaminant violations.
- Well or Groundwater: If your school has its own water source, such as a well or groundwater, it is most likely subject to the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). As such, it must regularly test its water and report these findings. If a school has unsafe water, it is likely due to a contaminated well or groundwater. A school’s geography might place it at higher risk for ground or well water contamination.
- Community Water Watch: The Community Water Center (CWC) works with low-income communities in California to ensure that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. The CWC website has a number of resources for communities with problems related to unsafe water supplies.
- Food and Water Watch: Advocates for public control of water resources and services, strong conservation measures, and support tough regulation of toxic emissions into water. The policies they promote result in safe and affordable drinking water for everyone, rather than reliance on bottled water
- Environmental Working Group: What’s in Your Water?
- Environmental Protection Agency: Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities
- EPA Water Quality Tool for Schools
- Arsenic in Schools Case Studies: Michigan Case Study and Seattle Case Study
- National Drinking Water Database: Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports on more than 20 million drinking water test conducted by water suppliers nationwide
- Environmental Protection Agency State Certification Officer for Drinking Water Laboratories
- California Department of Water Resources