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Drinking Water Access, Quality, and Policies in California Schools

Drinking water is associated with positive health outcomes. As students spend the majority of their day in school, providing access to safe, free, and appealing drinking water in these settings is critical for promoting health. In 2010, federal and California state policies required schools to provide free drinking water in food service areas, and in 2017 California legislation mandated schools to test water for lead to help ensure that water is safe to drink.


It is important to understand how drinking water access in schools has changed over time and the role that policies play in promoting access to free, safe, and appealing drinking water in schools.

Goals

The goals of this study are to:

  1. Understand how access to drinking water has changed over time with the passing of laws that mandate free water access in schools

  2. Assess the proportion of schools with lead and other key contaminants in drinking water in food service areas

  3. Analyze whether the quality of drinking water-related language in California school district wellness policies is associated with school-reported water access and related practices

EligiBLE SCHOOLS

A representative sample of public schools stratified by school type (elementary, middle, and high schools) and locale (rural, town, suburban, and urban areas) in California were sampled in this study.

evaluation Methods

There were two waves of data collection:

Wave 1 (2010-2011)

  • Administrators in a random sample of schools completed phone surveys about drinking water access on their campus

Wave 2 (2016-2018)

  • Administrators in a second random sample of schools completed phone surveys about drinking water access on their campus

  • Schools invited to test the quality of water in food service areas

  • School districts’ wellness policies analyzed for water-related language

Study Status

Water access surveys are completed; water quality testing is ongoing; analysis of school district wellness policies is in progress.

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Policy Implications

The information gathered in this study can help schools, policymakers, and other organizations understand whether there have been improvements to water access in schools. Findings from this study will also highlight the prevalence of contaminants in drinking water in California school food service areas and the role of district wellness policies in promoting excellent drinking water access in schools.

FunderS

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program

Collaborators

 
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