California will now require all newly constructed K-12 public schools, as well as any undergoing modernization, to provide water bottle filling stations. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2638 (Bloom, D-Santa Monica) into law on Sept. 29, 2022, after it received unanimous approval in its passage through the California Legislature.
In a win for equity, AB 2638 author Assemblymember Richard Bloom was also successful in gaining an additional $5 million dollars for the Drinking Water in Schools Program in the California State Budget for fiscal year 2022–23 (AB 179, page 356). Disadvantaged schools were prioritized from the outset for this program that provides funds and technical assistance for school drinking water safety and access, including new water stations and point of entry (POE) and point of use (POU) water filtration for contaminants. Previous allocations to this program were $9.5 million in 2017 (Senate Bill 828; Guidelines) with awards made to about 70 school districts, and $6.8 million in 2019 (SB 862; the approved funding list for “Round 2” has not yet been released).
AB 2638 instructs school districts to allow pupils, teachers and staff to carry refillable water bottles, with exclusions for areas in which water could be hazardous, for example libraries or computer labs. This information should be made publicly available to students, families and staff.
AB 2638 also states that K-12 public schools “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.” This is important because studies show that children are most likely to consume more water in place of sugary drinks when drinking water is not only made more accessible but also actively promoted.
Check out the National Drinking Water Alliance for toolkits and other educational resources about drinking water. The following are examples of ready-to-download signage:
- Drink more water – Three simple downloadable posters from the Harvard Prevention Research Center.
- Choose health. Drink water – Downloadable poster with sugary drink calorie and sugar content information in English from the California Department of Public Health.
- Elija la salud. Tome agua – Downloadable poster with sugary drink calorie and sugar content information in Spanish from the California Department of Public Health.
- Healthy hydration – Downloadable poster in English with facts about water and health from the National Drinking Water Alliance.
- Hidratación saludable. Downloadable poster in Spanish with facts about water and health from the National Drinking Water Alliance.
Christina Hecht, Ph.D., is senior policy advisor for the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.