Drinking Water at School

August spells school is back in session.  We all have memories of getting on the bus or sending our little ones on their first day.  Parents concern themselves with school supplies, clothes, and packing lunches.  What is oftentimes not considered is the quality and amount of water their child drinks during the school year.

Recently and in the past, stories have been reported about schools having contaminants, specifically lead, in the drinking water.  Schools are not legally required to test their drinking water unless the school maintains their own water supply.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) estimates there are approximately 98,000 public schools and 500,000 childcare facilities not required to test their water under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  They may be voluntarily testing their water, but it is not reported to the USEPA.  Although drinking water is not the only way to absorb lead, drinking water containing lead can impact a child’s development and learning ability since they absorb more lead then the average adult.  It is important, as a parent, to ask your child’s school if they have recently tested drinking water fountains for any contaminant and were there any positive results and the solution to rectify to issue.

Another area of concern is kids are drinking less and less water which affects their ability in school and can cause dehydration.  The influx of sugary, carbonated drinks and coffee has made kids turn less and less to drinking water.  When they do choose water, they can stave off dehydration.  Being hydrated will allow your child to have more energy for learning, playing, and growing.  It’s important to have a discussion with your child about getting enough water throughout the day.  Talk with them about the signs of dehydration such as frequent headaches, dry skin and lips, not being able to focus, being moody, and having a short attention span.  If all else fails, have them use the urine test.  The darker color yellow their urine is, the more dehydrated they are.  The goal is for a clear color of urine.

A school can help ensure children do get enough water during the school day.  A school in Alaska, Petersburg School District, used a grant to replace and install drinking water fountains with bottle fillers.  Each student was issued a water bottle so students can fill the bottles throughout the day.  Installed in the school’s gym are two fountains with bottle fillers since it’s the area where the most activity occurs.  Students are also offered water with lemon in the cafeteria during lunch period.  According to the athletic director “Our students bring their personal water bottles on trips and get disappointed when they get to other schools and they don’t have water bottle filling stations.”

Older children have more beverage choices such as coffees, sodas, and fruit flavored drinks.  As everyone prepares for a successful school year, check into the amount and quality of water our children are drinking.  Have a conversation with your child about drinking a good amount of water and understanding the signs of dehydration.  It will help them be able to be more attentive and enjoy the school year ahead.