Example Policies

Water in Schools


The federal Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 requires free water to be available to children in the National School Lunch program. The USDA released guidance for implementation in 2011, and schools were to be in compliance by the 2011-2012 school year.


States can choose to build on existing federal legislation and create even stronger requirements for water availability in schools.

California: SB 1413 was enacted in 2010.  It requires all California schools to make free, fresh drinking water available to students during school meal times.  Though guidance for implementation was released in 2011, requirements were not well-promoted or well-implemented, and a recent survey found that 40% of responding California schools still have no water access in school cafeterias.

School Wellness Policies and Local Advocacy

According to federal law, all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program or other federal Child Nutrition programs must adopt and adhere to a local school wellness policy.  A well-written local school wellness policy can promote student consumption of water and ensure compliance with federal and state water requirements. Local action is also key - local leaders and community members can engage with their school wellness committees to advocate for wellness policies that  support water consumption. Please see our Model Policy section below for recommended wellness policy language.

Water supply and sanitation

California: AB985(Human Right to Water) was passed in 2012. It establishes a statewide policy that recognizes as a "basic human right" - water that is safe, clean, affordable, accessible, and adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes. It requires relevant state agencies and administrators to consider this policy when making administrative decisions pertinent to the use of water described above.


Model Policies

Policy recommendations

Additional reading

  • Water in Schools - a guide to implement  new federal and state laws that require the provision of water in schools.  Includes policy briefs, fact sheets, FAQs, resources and case studies to help advocates improve access to free, fresh drinking water in schools.
  • Take Back the Tap - a guide on how to increase safe tap water consumption (Food and Water Watch)
  • You are What You Drink - a collaborative between Partnership for a Healthier America and First Lady Michelle Obama, encouraging kids and families to drink more water.
  • National Drinking Water Alliance - online resource clearinghouse for drinking water research, policy, access and education.  Hundreds of useful tools, research studies, fact sheets, promotional material and policy papers, as well as developments from the field.
  • Water First: Promoting Water Intake in Community Settings - Toolkit and Factsheet