Colorado gets a ‘C+’ for efforts to get the lead out of water

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CoPIRG calls for stronger action to prevent lead contamination of schools’ water

DENVER – Colorado earned a C+ grade based on its policies to  stop pervasive lead contamination of schools’ drinking water in the third edition of CoPIRG Foundation and Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center’s Get The Lead Out study. Colorado jumped up  from an “F” in the previous study by taking incremental policy steps toward safer drinking water for kids at school. 

The groups gathered outside the Capitol to highlight the opportunity that school districts have to adopt additional filter first policies and use state and federal resources to exceed state  actions, extending  protections to more kids across the state. A 2021 study found that 72% of Colorado children under 6 who were tested had detectable levels of lead in their blood – well above the national rate of 51%. 

“Kids in Colorado deserve the opportunity to drink clean water while learning and playing at school every day,” said CoPIRG public health advocate Alex Simon. “While last year’s bill was an important step in the right direction, protecting our kids’ health requires prevention at every drinking water tap  — something school districts can do with additional policy action and capitalizing on state and federal money.”

In most states that have tested a significant percentage of schools and made that data public, roughly half of the schools tested found lead at one or more taps. Here in Colorado, only seven school districts had conducted lead testing through a statewide grant program as of September 2021, with data available on the CDPHE website. Under the recently passed state law, elementary schools and most child care facilities are required to test drinking water sources and post results publicly by June 1, 2023. 

Most schools and pre-schools still have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination.  

HB22-1358 provides critical funding to school districts for remediation but the law only requires addressing taps where testing confirms lead concentrations in water above 5 parts per billion, allowing for significantly more lead in the water than the 1 ppb recommended for children by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Furthermore, lead concentrations in water are highly variable, and so even proper sampling can miss lead contamination or fail to capture its full extent.  

“Test and fix” policies like Colorado is a main reason why the state earned a C+. 

Fortunately, Colorado school districts can take stronger action to ensure safe drinking water and resources are available to implement them. For example, CoPIRG Foundation’s report strongly recommends ‘Filtering First’ by installing filtered water stations, which eliminates a common source of lead (fountains replaced) and also captures lead coming from plumbing or pipes. Such measures would only cost a small fraction of the federal funding Colorado schools are already receiving.

A more complete picture of lead contamination statewide will emerge this summer, as local schools and most child care facilities are required to publicly report lead testing results in June. 

“Children in Colorado have been exposed to lead in their drinking water for far too long. With current federal and state funding available, school districts have a window of opportunity to act and filter first to fully protect our kids,” said Simon

Read the full report here.  


CoPIRG Foundation – through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being. More at

Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit