Everyone, whether students, parents, school administrators or local advocates, can play a role — big or small — in making water more available in schools.
It Starts with You
A key element of any successful strategy to make water access a reality is to identify partners and funding sources at the local, state, and regional levels. There are a wide range of potential partners and funders from the PTA to the private sector to municipal water districts that can help expand access to water in schools. Other ways to engage include:
Student, Parent, and Local Community Engagement
Soliciting feedback on how best to encourage water consumption and how to overcome current barriers to water consumption can help ensure a successful effort to expand and enhance the availability of fresh water.
Schools can establish campaigns to promote water consumption with marketing and education. Water can be incorporated into lessons on biology, health, nutrition, and physical education. Signs and advertisements can be posted in the cafeteria and throughout campus promoting the health and environmental benefits (i.e., reduced bottle waste) of tap water consumption.
Work with Local Groups
The local PTA can help get things started. Find other interested people and groups. Develop and coordinate a work plan and strategy.
Engage Your Local School Wellness Policy Committee
Ensure that water access/availability is included in the policy. If it isn’t, make a motion to include such language.
Test the School’s Water Supply
Test the school’s water supply to ensure the school community has confidence in the water quality. Many students might think tap water is bad or unclean even though the water is perfectly safe. Knowing that the water is safe and clean and publicizing this fact can help improve the image of tap water.
Meet with Student Groups to Get Buy-In
Students can also explain why they might not currently be accessing or drinking water. Common complaints are that water fountains are dirty, that they prefer chilled water, or the location of the tap is inconvenient. Each school’s response might be unique depending on your student population and its needs
The following resources provide tools for school administrators, food service directors, parents, local advocates, and community leaders to get involved in water access.
- Ways to Take Action Handout
- Learn More about Water Quality
- Fundraising in Schools
- Ideas for Healthy Fundraising
- Water in Schools Action Checklist
- Keep it Flowing: A Practical Guide to School Drinking Water Planning, Maintenance and Repair
- Harvard Water Access Audit Tool
Remember: Inform school food service officials that federal school meal reimbursements from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be used on water service. Just like schools can use this school meal funding to buy forks, trays, and napkins, they can use this pot of money for some of the costs related to serving water, such as cups and water dispensers.