EPA is responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation's drinking water in public water supplies. EPA estimates that approximately 10,000 schools and child care facilities maintain their own water supply and are therefore regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In addition, there are approximately 90,000 public elementary and secondary schools (1) and an estimated 500,000 licensed child care facilities in the nation (2) that are not regulated under SDWA and therefore may or may not be conducting voluntary drinking water quality testing. Whether your facility is a regulated or non-regulated school or child care center you can find information about drinking water quality on this web site.
The current focus of this page is on lead in drinking water in school and child care facilities. However, this page will be updated over time to address other issues associated with water quality in schools and child care facilities.
- Sources of Lead in Drinking Water
- Many Factors Influence Corrosion
- Public Meeting on Lead in Schools and Child Care Facilities
- Request for Information on State Programs for Lead in Drinking Water in Schools
- Water Quality Funding Sources for Schools – A Resource for K-12 Schools and Child Care Facilities
EPA is concerned about the potential for elevated lead levels in the drinking water of schools and child care centers. Exposure to lead is a significant health concern, especially for young children and infants whose growing bodies tend to absorb more lead than the average adult. Drinking water is one possible source of lead exposure. Infants whose diets consist mainly of formula prepared with tap water may get a significant portion of their lead exposure from water. Some drinking water pipes, taps, solder and other plumbing components contain lead. Lead in the plumbing may leach into water and pose a health risk when consumed. Testing water in schools and child care facilities is important because children spend a significant portion of their days in these facilities, and they are likely to consume water while there.
Sources of Lead in Drinking Water
Most sources of drinking water have no lead or very low levels of lead. Most lead gets into drinking water after the water leaves the local well or treatment plant and comes into contact with plumbing materials containing lead. These include lead pipes, lead solder (commonly used until 1986), as well as faucets, valves, and other components made of brass. The physical/chemical interaction that occurs between the water and plumbing is referred to as corrosion. The extent to which corrosion occurs contributes to the amount of lead that can be released into the drinking water.
Even though your school or child care facility's public water supplier may deliver water that meets all federal and state public health standards for lead, you may end up with too much lead in your drinking water because of the plumbing in your facility. The potential for lead to leach into water can increase the longer the water remains in contact with lead in plumbing. This increase occurs up to a certain time limit, which can vary from facility to facility. As a result, facilities with intermittent water use patterns, such as schools and child care centers, may have elevated lead concentrations. That is why testing water from drinking water outlets for lead is so important. Drinking water outlets are locations where water may be accessed for consumption such as a drinking fountain, a water faucet, or a tap.
Many Factors Influence Corrosion
The corrosion of lead tends to occur more frequently in "soft" water (i.e., water that lathers soap easily) and acidic (low pH) water. Other factors, however, also contribute to the corrosion potential of the water and include water velocity, temperature, alkalinity, chlorine levels, the age and condition of plumbing, and the amount of time water is in contact with plumbing. The occurrence and rate of corrosion depend on the complex interaction between a number of these and other chemical, physical, and biological factors.
Public Meeting on Lead in Schools and Child Care Facilities - December 7, 2004
Participants discussed the differences between schools and child care facilities with their own water supplies that are regulated as public water systems and those that are served by other community water systems. Issues associated with testing drinking water, and remediation and communication strategies were discussed.
Request for Information on State Programs for Lead in Drinking Water in Schools
In March 2004, Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles sent a letter to directors of state environmental and health agencies requesting information on state and local efforts to monitor and protect children from exposure to lead in drinking water at school and child care facilities. This paper summarizes the responses received from 49 states, Puerto Rico and the Navajo Nation on actions they have taken to reduce children's exposure to lead in drinking water. The summary also identifies recommendations made by states for future collaboration with EPA on this issue.
- Controlling Lead in Drinking Water for Schools and Child Care Facilities: A Summary of State Programs (July 2004) PDF (29 pp, 387K, about PDF)
- Responses by State
Water Quality Funding Sources for Schools – A Resource for K-12 Schools and Child Care Facilities
This guide helps school and child care providers identify potential funding sources for water quality related projects. In addition to water quality projects, this guide can identify potential funding sources for variety of programs related to children’s health and environment. To help you navigate this resource this information is available as a PDF document and as a sortable Excel document.
This document is only available on the guidance and tools page.
1 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey," 2001-2002
2 National Child Care Association sponsored study "The National Economic Impacts of the Child Care Sector," Fall 2002