Serve Safe and Appealing Water

Federal law requires that schools offer students free water in places where meals are served.  Schools might meet this requirement by serving water from any one of a number of different water delivery sources including: (1) Tap water dispensers; (2) point of use water machines; and (3) traditional water fountains, water fountains with bottle fillers, and standalone bottle fillers

Water Delivery Sources

California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) has created a helpful illustrated handout of options for making water available in schools. As schools move water projects forward this might include improving existing water sources (e.g., fixing broken fountains, retrofitting existing fountains, or making sure existing water sources stay clean). Or, you may elect to install new water delivery sources, either to replace older units or to feature in addition to existing sources. Because many students, families, and school staff may not trust tap water supplies it is important to also test drinking water, treat it when necessary, and publicize these efforts to the school community.

Improve Existing Water Sources

The appeal of existing water sources often can be greatly improved with regular cleaning and maintenance. Work with your school’s facilities and/or custodial staff to develop a cleaning and maintenance schedule for the school’s water sources. You can also increase the appeal of existing water sources by posting artwork, signs, or posters on or near the water delivery source.

Retrofit Existing Water Sources

If your school has traditional drinking water fountains, these units can often be retrofitted to increase their appeal and/or accessibility. For example, schools can retrofit existing fountains to add water bottle filling stations.

Test Water Quality

Once you have decided where to install new water delivery sources, it is important to ensure the water in these locations is free from contaminants and safe to drink. The procedures for testing drinking water quality at schools will vary based on several factors, including:

  • the source of the school’s tap water (i.e., a public water system vs. own water supply)
  • the geographical location of the school
  • The age of the school (i.e, older schools are more likely to have plumbing containing lead).

Contact the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Hotline, or your local Drinking Water Program District Office for more information regarding the types of water quality testing your school should conduct.  Remember, all testing should be completed by an EPA-certified laboratory