“NO WATER FOUNTAIN DUE TO COVID-19”
“DRINKING FOUNTAIN HAS BEEN TURNED OFF FOR YOUR SAFETY”
“WATER BOTTLE FILLING ONLY – DO NOT DRINK FROM WATER FOUNTAIN”
Signs like these went up everywhere in 2020. Drinking fountains were closed because they have “high touch”, moist surfaces that potentially allow the COVID-19 virus to survive and spread. Pre-pandemic, one study found water fountains and manual pencil sharpener handles to be the school surfaces most contaminated with bacteria.
At the same time, we all need access to drinking water for our health and safety! Drinking water promotes good physical health and cognitive performance, particularly short-term memory. Water is a healthier choice than sugary drinks, which are linked to overweight, obesity, and chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fluoridated drinking water helps prevent dental cavities.
Schools participating in the USDA National School Lunch Program must make drinking water available to students at no cost during meal periods where meals are served, and drinking fountains allowed many schools to meet that requirement. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC now encourages staff and students to avoid using water fountains by bringing their own water bottles. Water bottle filling stations could help prevent disease transmission and conserve resources. However, most school buildings lack water filling stations.
At the end of 2020, the 133rd Ohio General Assembly passed SB 259. This legislation will modernize the water access requirements for school buildings by ensuring that newly built schools include water bottle filling stations, providing a safer, affordable way to encourage kids to drink more water. Costs for water refill stations compared to a water fountains are nominal in the process of construction and can save money over time.
Check out resources in this toolkit and others listed in the reference section below for promoting installation and use of water filling stations at schools in your community!