About the Issue

About the Issue

Because water is a basic human need that kids cannot live without, there’s no doubt that all kids in all U.S. schools should have access to water at no cost. Schools should make water widely available via water dispensers, water bottle filling stations or water fountains throughout the day and at mealtimes. 

But the reality is that water that is both safe and appealing is not readily available at many U.S. schools. A nationally representative survey published in 2015 showed that more than half of school-aged children were inadequately hydrated. Water access in schools and consumption by students can vary by gender, race, and ethnicity of students, socioeconomic status of students’ families and geographic region. For example, Black children are less likely to drink enough water compared to white children; and boys are less likely to drink enough water compared to girls. 

This matters because water plays an important role in maintaining a child’s overall health. Water helps children’s muscles, joints and tissues. Water keeps kids’ growing bodies hydrated. 

When water is not available, children tend to have more sugary drinks, like sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks with added sugar, energy drinks and soda—all of which contain empty calories and are linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks can also reduce children’s risk of dental cavities. 

Drinking water while at school helps kids learn better. According to a national survey, healthy, active children perform better academically. Drinking water can improve children’s fine motor skills and visual attention, which helps with learning activities such as reading.