Water Access in Schools

Girl with water bottle on playground

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

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) 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) 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) 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.

Water Access in Schools Microlearning Modules
Toolkit for Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools
cover of Increasing Access to Drinking Water in Schools

The sections in the toolkit are available below for quick access.