What's the 'State of the Tap' in Schools Now?

Of course kids in school can easily get a drink of water, right? At first glance, this may seem obvious. But, after some exploration, the issue is quite a bit more complicated.

First, a recent survey from California Project LEAN and the California Department of Education found that approximately 40 percent of responding districts reported no access to free drinking water in school food service areas. Second, even for those that report having access to free drinking water, whether this access actually means kids are drinking water is another story.

We can all probably remember the sorry state of many water fountains in our schools.  Too many are in varying states of disrepair and dysfunction. Even if they are in working order, some fountains are visually unappealing or dispense tepid, unpalatable water.

unappealing fountain

Students often express a desire for chilled water. While some fountains are certainly inviting and deliver clean-tasting water, this is certainly not the case statewide.

And water fountains may not be the best way to ensure adequate access to drinking water.  Imagine a busy lunchroom with a hundred kids lining up to grab a sip of water from a fountain.  It’s pretty difficult to get a substantial drink of water.

With broken, unappealing, or poorly functioning fountains, it is likely quicker and more convenient for kids to grab a sugary drink from the vending machine, school store, or fundraiser.  Or, to grab something on the way to school from the nearby convenience market and drink that during lunch.

A recent UCLA study found that 41 percent of children (ages 2 - 11), 62 percent of adolescents (ages 12 - 17), and 24 percent of adults drink at least one soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage every day.

Regardless of income or ethnicity, adults who drink one or more sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages every day are 27 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.  Soda consumption rates vary from county to county and city to city, with dramatic variations between some counties and some cities.

If kids knew that they could count on clean-tasting, fresh water during their meals, they might be less likely to buy that bottled sugar-sweetened drink.  Quicker and more efficient methods are necessary to get a proper serving of water to thirsty kids in a timely fashion. 

Check out this resource for how to promote tap water consumption.  Also, check out this page for some examples of how schools are using innovative strategies for making water available to students.

Is your school using a unique or creative way to get more kids to drink water?  Let us know!  We'd love to highlight your success stories on this site.  Contact Ariana Oliva, ariana@cfpa.net, 213.482.8200 x203.