The Tulare County Board of Supervisors has received approval for a $1 million state grant to provide quality drinking water to qualified schools in the county.
The Tulare County Office of Education staff, under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak, played an important role in securing this grant.
There are at least 20 schools and nine childcare facilities in the county that have water contamination problems, said Eric Coyne, spokesman for Tulare County Resource Management Agency.
Many of these are rural schools that either operate with a private well or belong to a local water district.
These wells may be contaminated by nitrates, arsenic or other elements, making the water unsuitable to drink, Coyne said.
When the grant comes through, 2,500 to 5,000 children will receive free bottled water, distributed along with the USDA-funded childcare food program.
The schools are scattered around the county, and each one will have to be individually qualified based on its contamination problems and financial needs, Coyne said.
This would be a three-year grant and would serve as a pilot-program for the state, he added.
Students will also learn about water management and recycling, as the plastic bottles will be recycled.
The county is in the process of qualifying schools now.
Following that step, the water could be distributed almost immediately.