Why Water?

Kids are drinking too many sodas and other sugary drinks. In California, even with state laws prohibiting most sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on school campuses, studies indicate that an alarming 62 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 and 41 percent of children ages two to 11 drink at least one soda or sugar-sweetened beverage per day.

The Facts

  • Today, one in three children are overweight or obese and these rates have skyrocketed over the past forty years. 
  • Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2 to 5 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, and more than tripled for children aged 6 to 11 years.
  • Experts are increasingly pointing to the role of sugary drinks, like sodas, sports drinks, and sweet teas, as a primary driver of the obesity epidemic. Many agree that water is a key anti-obesity tactic to support health.1
  • Research shows that children are not drinking enough water.2 According to a nationwide study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 54.4% of students in the study did not meet their minimum daily water intake.  
  • Children are drinking unnecessary sugary drinks that lead to poor health and hydration that impact academic achievement and our ability to be physically active.3

Importance of Water

Research suggests that substituting water for SSBs could result in up to 235 fewer extra calories per day being taken in by children and adolescents. In addition to water’s role in maintaining a healthy weight, replacing SSBs with tap water, which is often fluoridated, can help to prevent tooth decay, one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood.

Schools are a great place to start promoting water consumption since kids spend so much of their day in schools and can begin to learn how to incorporate water consumption into their daily routine. Many of the strategies to promote water consumption can also be translated to child care, afterschool settings, and parks and rec sites where children play and recreate.

Policy Efforts around Water

In the fall of 2010, California passed legislation, SB 1413 to require that free, fresh drinking water be made available to students during school meals.  Pending federal legislation would create a similar requirement nationally in schools.

First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative has brought a new round of high-level attention to this serious problem; the persistence and pervasiveness of the epidemic are truly troubling.  It is clear that local action is needed if we’re going to start making a difference.


  1. “The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation, 2010”.  US Department of Health and Human Services.  http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/obesityvision/obesityvision2010.pdf
  2. Stookey J.  Presentation.  Oakland, CA.  September 14, 2009.
  3. Stookey J. Forthcoming Article.