264780 Free Drinking Water Access and Quality in Six Washington School Districts

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 10:51 AM - 11:02 AM

Elizabeth C. Payne, MPH, RD , School of Public Health, University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition, Seattle, WA
Donna B. Johnson, RD, PhD , Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Mary Podrabsky, MPH, RD , School of Public Health, University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition, Seattle, WA
Introduction: As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a new federal rule requires that schools provide free drinking water at lunchtime. Adequate hydration is important for health and cognitive function, but water consumption among children is lower than recommended. Providing attractive and easily accessible free water throughout school campuses may increase water consumption during the school day.

Methods: As part of a comprehensive School Beverage Inventory, information about the availability, location and type of free water access was collected in 40 secondary schools in six King County school districts. Data from 30 schools were collected in the spring of 2011; data from 10 schools were collected in the fall of 2011. The water quality (flow, temperature, clarity, smell, color) and appearance of each free water access point was evaluated.

Results: Access to free water in schools ranged from 6 to nearly 21 access points per 1,000 students. Only 20 of the 40 schools sampled had functioning free water access points in the cafeteria during lunchtime. Less than 15% of the water access points dispensed cold water (15 C or less), and many (72%) of the water fountains were dirty, had trash in them, or had clogged drains.

Discussion: Information about free water access can help school districts make sure they are promoting healthful behaviors and are in compliance with the new federal regulations. In addition to access, the quality of free water, such as temperature, smell and appearance can be addressed to encourage consumption of water in schools.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe methods of assessing access and quality of free water in schools. Identify the barriers to water consumption in schools. Discuss strategies for improving access and quality of free water in schools.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have coordinated multiple federally funded research projects focusing on the nutrition and physical activity environment in schools and child-care settings. My research interests include assessment and policy development processes in schools and child-care settings.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.