According to new research from the American Journal of Public Health, many schools are not providing tap water that meets excellent water access criteria.
Researchers conducted phone interviews at 240 California public schools. School administrators were asked various questions regarding the free water sources at their schools addressing five criteria: water sources in four of five key school locations; high density of water sources available in relation to school population; availability of water through a non-fountain source; ability to provide tap water that is safe and appealing; and the maintenance and cleanliness of the water fountains.
Results indicated that no schools met all five criteria. Furthermore, secondary schools, schools in urban locations and older schools met the fewest of the study’s standards. Among administrators’ indicated barriers for excellent water access were budget concerns and other academic issues.
“Although nearly all schools in our study met the building code requirement, merely having fountains in place may be insufficient for increasing water intake among students. This is particularly true if fountains are not maintained or if students perceive water from fountains to be unsafe,” the authors note.
“Drinking sugary beverages may have dire health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and dental caries, particularly for low-income and minority children who are most likely to consume these beverages. In order to address this problem, it is important to promote low-cost healthy beverage alternatives such as water in schools - a location where children spend substantial time,” the authors explain.
“Schools have made great strides in reducing availability of sugar-sweetened beverages, yet ensuring excellence in drinking water access in schools is still an area of significant need, especially in schools in which students have high rates of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and associated health conditions such as obesity and dental caries,” they conclude.