This study aimed to investigate how access to free drinking water in California public schools changed after implementation of 2010 federal and state school water policies. Repeated cross-sectional surveys were conducted with administrators in a random sample of California public schools, stratified by school type and urban-centric geography, from 2010 to 2011 (n = 240) and from 2016 to 2018 (n = 240). Surveys assessed excellence in drinking water access, defined as 1) providing water in 4 of 5 key school locations, 2) having a high density of free water available, 3) providing water via a non-fountain source, 4) providing water that is perceived as safe, and 5) offering water sources that are reported as clean and functioning. In 2010–2011, 5% of schools met all water excellence criteria; in 2016–2018, 18% of schools met all excellence criteria. In adjusted models, post-legislation schools had 4 times the odds of meeting all drinking water excellence criteria compared to pre-legislation schools. There were significant increases in public schools meeting the criteria for excellence in free drinking water access after school water policies were implemented; however, a majority of schools still lacked excellent water access. Findings suggest that policies mandating free water access in schools may help to improve excellence in access, and more work is needed to help all schools excel in this area.