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water bottle foujntain

Knowledge Center: Fill 'er up!

April 5, 2022

Two years of immersion in the Covid-19 pandemic have made most people more alert to the risks of spreading germs, and more knowledgeable about the steps they can take to avoid germs.

So as schools bolstered their cleaning and disinfecting efforts to keep the virus from spreading to students and staff, a particular area of focus was the school drinking fountain, where hundreds of people throughout the school day lowered their heads to the spigot to quench their thirst. Some studies have indicated that school drinking fountains were among the most germ-laden areas in an educational facility.

In the early response to Covid, some schools shut down their water fountains. As more was learned about the virus, health officials determined that the risk of contracting Covid-19 through drinking water was very low. However, the fact remained that the typical drinking fountain in a school is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, and the more frequently it is used, the more opportunity for germs to spread.

The American Heart Association Voices for Healthy Kids is one of the leading advocates for supplanting traditional drinking fountains with water bottle filling stations.

“Water bottle filling stations are more important than ever before,” the heart association says. “Unlike water fountains, water bottle filling stations don’t come in contact with a person’s mouth, making them a sanitary way for students, teachers, staff and parents to stay hydrated while on campus.

Many education institutions have been persuaded—and in some cases mandated—to make their water fountains safer and more healthful by installing water bottle filling stations and encouraging students and staff to have their own water bottles.

Some examples:

  • The West Virginia Legislature has approved a bill that would require water bottle filling stations in every public school that is newly constructed or receives more than $1 million in improvements.
    “Studies show when water bottle filling stations are installed in schools, students nearly triple the amount of how much water they drink at lunch time and the likelihood of students in those same schools being at an unhealthy weight is greatly reduced,” the legislation states. “Additionally, studies have shown that there are more germs found on an average classroom water fountain spigot than a toilet seat or an animal cage. Accordingly, promoting the use of a water bottle filling station reduces the spread of germs and disease.
    The bill calls for at least one water bottle filling station on each floor and each wing of a school building; at least one filling station in all food service areas; at least one filling station near gymnasiums and athletic facilities; and at least one filling station per 200 building occupants.
  • In California, a similar bill has been introduced in the legislature. It would require public schools to have a minimum of one water bottle filling station per 150 people; at least one water bottle filling station per occupied floor in schools, theaters, auditoriums, residence halls, offices, or public buildings; at least one water bottle filling station in or near gymnasiums, outdoor recreation spaces, and other high-traffic areas; and at least one water bottle filing station in all school food service areas.
    “Administrators of a school district or charter school shall encourage water consumption through promotional and educational activities and signage that focus on the benefits of drinking water and highlight water bottle filling stations throughout schools,” the proposed legislation says.
  • Twenty-five middle schools in Tennessee are receiving grants to replace one of their existing water fountains with a water bottle filling station. Delta Dental of Tennessee awarded the grants as part of its “Water’s Cool @ School” program, which seeks to educate students on the benefits of drinking more water and encourage schools to make it more accessible during the school day
About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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