Senator Wiener’s Legislation to Ensure Public Schools and State Agencies Have Safe Drinking Water Passes the Assembly Education Committee

June 30, 2022

SACRAMENTO - Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 1144, the Safe and Efficient Water Act, passed the Assembly Education Committee by a vote of 5-0. It will now head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. SB 1144 requires public and charter schools and state agencies to complete a water quality and efficiency assessment on their facilities. This bill ensures our public schools and state agencies have safe, drinkable water. Far too many school children and other California residents currently lack access to clean water.

Under SB 1144, the water systems at public schools and state agencies must undergo testing to determine if lead is present. It will also require schools and agencies to test their water appliances and fixtures for water use efficiency. If any plumbing fixture is found to contain levels of contaminants beyond the legal limits, remediation methods such as filters, testing, or full replacement is expected at the earliest practice time, subject to funding. If any fixture or appliance is found to use more water than the current standards for water efficiency, the operating agency must replace the fixture with a more efficient equivalent at the earliest practical time, subject to funding.

School drinking water is frequently contaminated at unacceptable levels. 53% of reporting school districts in California found lead in at least one of their drinking water fountains on a campus. As with many other environmental pollutants, children are particularly at risk of experiencing the adverse health effects of water contamination. Exposure to contaminated water can result in an array of health issues that vary depending on the contaminant, as well as the intensity and duration of the exposure. Common health complications can include Legionnaires’ disease, liver and kidney problems, developmental and behavioral issues, and in some cases, cancer.

Finally, under SB 1144, agencies or schools with any covered buildings that use a cooling tower system over ten years old must create a Legionella management program. This program will include routine bacteriological culture sampling and Legionella culture sampling, as well as remediation and disinfection plans. Legionella is bacteria that can grow in water, HVAC or cooling tower systems and can cause a serious type of pneumonia, known as Legionnaire’s disease.

For environmental and health reasons, California must do better when it comes to water safety and efficiency. We cannot allow people across the state – including children and low income communities – to continue to be exposed to harmful contaminants. California’s water shortage is another serious problem that threatens the future of our state. Increasing water efficiency is an important strategy for saving California’s water supply and protecting our environment.

SB 1144 is sponsored by the California Pipe Trades Council.

“Children in schools deserve clean water,” said Senator Wiener. “People who work at or visit public agencies deserve clean water. Clean water is a basic human right. California is one of the wealthiest and most innovative places in the world. The least we can do is ensure people have access to drinkable, clean water free of harmful contaminants.”