New California Law Requires All Public Schools to Offer Clean and Free Drinking Water to Students in Areas Where Meals are Served

Youth Media From Around the State Examine the Problem

LOS ANGELES--()--This week marks a key date in California’s efforts to fight childhood obesity. On Friday July 1st a new state law requires all public schools to provide free fresh drinking water to students at mealtimes.

Last year, California lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1413 requiring school districts to offer free fresh water at mealtimes by July 1, 2011, unless the district approves a resolution saying it cannot comply for fiscal or health and safety reasons.

The requirement to offer free drinking water may seem like an easy one to fulfill, but a 2009 survey by the California Department of Public Health found that about 40 percent of the 200 responding school districts reported that they did not provide access to free drinking water during school meals. Even in schools where safe drinking water is available, the survey found that students don’t drink water because the water in fountains or dispensers isn’t cold, schools don’t have enough water fountains and the fountains are poorly maintained.

It’s well known that childhood obesity has become a national epidemic in recent years, with about one in three children categorized as overweight or obese. There is a growing research base that shows that increasing water consumption improves student health, weight and academic performance, according to the nonprofit California Food Policy Advocates. The logic behind this law is based around the common sense understanding that drinking more fresh water, will result in students drinking less sugared sodas, juices and flavored milks which are directly correlated to childhood obesity.

With California leading the way on this issue, the federal government took notice and established a requirement in The Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010 for making water available to children in the National School Lunch Program. The USDA is urging schools to implement the requirement, which is modeled after California’s Senate Bill 1413, no later than the beginning of School Year 2011-12.

“Some may think a law like this is superfluous, but when they find out 40 percent of California schools don’t offer fresh free drinking water they realize it has merit,” said Marion Standish, director of community health at The California Endowment, the state’s largest health foundation and a national leader in developing childhood obesity prevention strategies. “The July 1 implementation deadline is an opportunity for schools, parents, teachers and students to work together to fully comply with the law that will make a real difference in the health and well-being of California’s children.”

This topic has been the subject of reports by California youth media outlets that explore this issue from the perspective of young people.

WATCH Merced School Fountain Video Here:

READ "Tapping the tap," by Alyssa Castro, Venice Arts:

READ "You can lead a kid to water," by Sayre Quevedo:

READ "Access to clean water crucial to students in East Coachella Valley," by Maricruz Cabrera:

About The California Endowment

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. For more information, please visit

About Building Healthy Communities

Building Healthy Communities is a 10-year, $1 billion plan of The California Endowment. In connection with staff-led, statewide policy initiatives, 14 communities are taking action to make where they live healthier. They’re doing this by improving employment opportunities, education, housing, neighborhood safety, unhealthy environmental conditions, access to healthy food and more. The goal: to create places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. Ultimately, we’re aiming at nothing less than a transformation in the way all of us think about and support health for all Californians. For more information, please visit


The California Endowment
Jeff Okey, 213-928-8622

Release Summary

As of July 1, 2011, SB 1413 requires that all California school districts must provide fresh, clean drinking water to students at meal times.


The California Endowment
Jeff Okey, 213-928-8622