Water, learning, and wellness go together, as water hydration provides blood volume to supply oxygen to active brains, replaces empty-calorie beverages, reduces obesity, and promotes health.
Make sure your school wellness policy provides access to − and promotes drinking of − safe, tested, clean water through:
• Standard Drinking Fountains
• Fountains with Bottle-Fillers
• Standalone Bottle-Fillers
• Self-serve Refillable Containers with a Drinking Spout
• Other Delivery Points
Safe, Tested Water
While safe drinking water may start in municipalities that test and treat water for quality at a public water system (PWS) facility, or in schools that draw water from a well that has been tested for water quality, it’s what happens “downstream” through plumbing systems and access points that may determine how safe water is to drink.
It is vital to test water at the point-of-consumption, since contaminants like lead can leach into drinking water from the plumbing system, while coliform and other bacteria may enter downstream from the water source.
Testing reveals water’s characteristics and content, as a prelude to corrective measures. Develop a water testing protocol and response plan following federal, state, and local guidelines. In general:
• Take inventory of drinking fountains, bottle-fillers, and other drinking water access points.
• Identify where, when, frequency, and how you will sample.
• In plumbed sources, use “first-draw” samples after the access point has been unused for at least eight hours. If lead is dissolved in the water, it will be most apparent when water has been sitting in the pipes for an extended time.
• Use an accredited laboratory to analyze water samples, and possibly to gather them.
• Consult federal, state, and local guidelines for next steps.
• Consider filtration where practical.
• Document all efforts, including follow-up and cleaning.
Cleaning Best Practices
In high-traffic areas, several times per day, inspect fountains for cleanliness, trash or debris. Remove trash and foreign objects, then wipe with a disposable wipe or clean microfiber cloth or surface, going from clean to dirty (wipe the water outlet 1st, the handle or dispenser button 2nd, and the basin 3rd). Run the fountain for a few seconds to ensure the nozzle is clear.
Wearing personal protection (e.g., gloves, goggles), disinfect using 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water or more benign formulations such as ElectroChemically Activated (ECA) hypochlorous solutions generated on-site, hydrogen peroxide-based formulas, or other EPA-registered products with low-toxicity, following label directions and allowing enough dwell time for efficacy. Designate fountains as “out of service” during this process, and rinse well afterward with clean water.
Vacuum ventilation grilles or cooling coils.
Brush nozzles and outlets using water and a small, stiff, non-scratching brush (think toothbrush), as brushing is the only way to remove biofilm, that − like plaque on teeth − must be physically disrupted and rinsed away.
Spray the entire surface with undiluted white vinegar, repeatedly as needed to keep the surface wet, to remove scale or mineral buildup. Use a small brush as above to help remove deposits. Designate fountains as “out of service” during this process, and rinse well with clean water.
Check for leaks, condensation and for the presence of mold. Remove mold using water, detergent, and agitation. Report problems such as leaks or unusual noises to the maintenance team.
Promote the drinking of water, and in high-traffic areas, use bottle-fillers to lessen wait time and optimize access.
Either provide water bottles for students (e.g., with the school’s logo on them), have them bring their own, or supply single-use paper cups.
If you provide the bottles, you will need to clean and disinfect them. Avoid those containing BPA. Of course, packaged, bottled water is an option, though a costly one.