Water Access

Benefits of Drinking Water
water fountain

Providing access to drinking water gives students a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. It helps to increase students’ overall water consumption, maintain hydration, and reduce energy intake if substituted for sugar-sweetened beverages.1-3 Adequate hydration also may improve cognitive function in children and adolescents.4-8 Drinking water, if fluoridated, also plays a role in preventing dental caries (cavities).

Access to Drinking Water
water bottle
water bottle fill station

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010external icon requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)external icon to make free water available to students during meal times where they are served. The standards also require schools in the School Breakfast Program (SBP)external icon to make drinking water available when breakfast is served in the cafeteria.

In addition to the requirements, schools can use a variety of strategies to:

  • Ensure that water fountains are clean and properly maintained.
  • Provide access to water fountains, dispensers, and hydration stations throughout the school.
  • Allow students to have water bottles in class or to go to the water fountain if they need to drink water.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)external icon standards and regulations assure that public water supply is clean and safe before it leaves the water utility . However, lead plumbing parts (pipes, fittings, and fixtures) can contaminate water after it leaves the water main. Schools can test the water quality and have a plan in case there is contamination. In cases when tap water may not be safe to drink, schools can provide drinking water to students in other ways until the contamination can be fixed. This includes installing filtration systems or purchasing drinking water.

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schoolspdf icon [PDF – 150 KB] provides school health councils, nutrition services providers, principals, teachers, parents, and other school staff with information and tools to:

  • Meet free drinking water requirements in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) programs.
  • Help make clean, free drinking water readily available throughout multiple points in school settings.
  • Promote water consumption as a healthy beverage.


The easy-to-use toolkit includes background information, needs assessment tools, implementation strategies, and evaluation guidance to provide students with access to drinking water as part of a healthy nutrition environment.

cover of Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schoolspdf icon
[PDF – 150 KB]

Backgroundpdf icon [PDF – 290 KB]

Conduct a Needs Assessmentpdf icon [PDF – 373 KB]

Develop a Planpdf icon [PDF – 201 KB]

Put the Plan Into Actionpdf icon [PDF – 404 KB]

Evaluate Progresspdf icon [PDF – 174 KB]

Appendix 1: School Drinking Water Needs Assessment Checklist and Planning Guidepdf icon (Fillable PDF template) [PDF – 443 KB]

Appendix 2: Diagram of Water Testing in Schoolspdf icon [PDF – 40 KB]

Appendix 3: Examples of Water Dispensers for Schoolspdf icon [PDF – 68 KB]

Appendix 4: Strategies to Overcome Potential Challengespdf icon [PDF – 37 KB]

Appendix 5: Water Access Key Stakeholder Interview Questionspdf icon [PDF – 136 KB]



This presentation describes how to use the Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools Toolkit to help schools meet federal drinking water requirements for school meal programs and help make clean, free drinking water readily available throughout the school setting.

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools Toolkit: Step by Step Guidance on Using the Toolkitpdf icon

[PDF – 2.32 MB] ppt icon[PPT – 12.7 MB]

Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools Toolkit


  1. Kaushik A, Mullee MA, Bryant TN, Hill CM. A study of the association between children’s access to drinking water in primary schools and their fluid intake: can water be ‘cool’ in school? Child: Care, Health & Development. 2007;33:409–15.
  2. Muckelbauer R, Libuda L, Clausen K, Toschke AM, Reinehr T, Kersting M. Promotion and provision of drinking water in schools for overweight prevention: randomized, controlled cluster trial. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e661–e667.
  3. Wang Y C, Ludwig DS, Sonneville K, Gortmaker SL. Impact of change in sweetened caloric beverage consumption on energy intake among children and adolescents. Archieves of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. 2009;163(4):336–343.
  4. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews. 2010;68(8):439–458.
  5. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, Williams SCR, Calvert GA, Hampshire A, et al. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping. 2011;32:71–79.
  6. Edmonds CJ, Jeffes B. Does having a drink help you think? 6–7 year-old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water. Appetite. 2009;53:469–472.
  7. Edmonds CJ, Burford D. Should children drink more water? The effects of drinking water on cognition in children. Appetite. 2009;52:776–779.
  8. Benton D, Burgess N. The effect of the consumption of water on the memory and attention of children. Appetite. 2009;53:143–146.