News Feature | June 27, 2014

U.S. Schools Struggle To Offer Clean Drinking Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The federal government passed regulations to promote clean drinking water at schools, but many education districts still deserve an "F" for their performance. 

A regulation passed last year, which must be implemented by July, required "free drinking water at breakfast,” reported EdSource, an education policy group. Issued by the Agriculture Department, this is "the latest legal prod in the effort to bring water instead of sugary drinks into the mouths of students." 

The new rule amended "the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program measure to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, other than food sold under the lunch and breakfast programs," according to the measure. 

Even with new regulations, some states are lagging. 

"Access to free drinking water at school has improved, but California schools are not doing all they can, despite state and federal laws on the issue and evidence of the health benefits of drinking water, researchers said, the Los Angeles Times reported

The ability of schools to provide drinking water is often limited by their infrastructure. 

"Because water fountains have historically been the sole source of drinking water for students, some administrators believed fountains [could] come under scrutiny, a disheartening prospect in schools that struggle with aging plumbing infrastructure and cutbacks in custodial service," EdSource said. 

Jurisdiction over water issues is spread out over various agencies at many levels of government. "An array of federal, state, and local policies and regulations govern water availability in schools," according to Water In Schools, a food policy advocacy project. 

Some of the most important policy efforts will have to begin close to home. 

"Local action will be vital to ensuring that kids have easy access to water instead of sugary drinks at school," the project said. "Given the budget problems facing all schools, it is likely that promoting access to water is not on the top of many lists. This is why local advocates will be key to successful implementation of new water requirements." 

Check out Water Online's Drinking Water Solution Center.

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