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Studies have linked poor cognitive performance in some students to dehydration or low fluid (water) intake.  Physical exercise, including Physical Education (PE) as well as school and other sports and recreational activities, and exposure to hot weather further depletes the body’s fluid levels.

Water is our most essential nutrient, and, particularly in light of its importance to student performance, students should be better encouraged to drink the recommended amounts.

Additionally, some students are lactose intolerant and can drink only water if appropriate beverages are not in supply in school cafeterias.

Availability of Ice and Disposable Cups for Water or Bottled Water during School Lunch

Ice and disposable cups for water from drinking fountains or water dispensers and/or bottled water should be available in all school cafeterias; and all students should be encouraged to drink water with breakfast and lunch,[1] during PE, and incrementally throughout each day. Schools could be creative with this. Some might distribute bottled water (16 ounces at the least) during breakfast and lunch, and permit students to carry the bottles with them between and to classes, and re-fill them at campus water fountains to sip from throughout the day; this would help students to measure their water intake and assure that they’re consuming adequate amounts. And they could toss the bottles into school recycling containers before leaving school each day.

Other schools might disburse complimentary, preferably 64 oz water canteens to their students, perhaps entailing respective school logos, and/or Wellchild or other school healthcare providers could distribute water canteens to students during or after their annual school physicals.

Students should also have the privilege of carrying and sipping water and/or ice from canteens[2] during lunch, during their classes, and generally throughout each school day. They should also have open access to water faucets (other than those in school restrooms) and dishwashing liquid and/or, preferably, disposable dish wipes for use in washing their canteens, or for use by instructors or paraprofessionals who’d wash them, as for early childhood and special education students (See an example of disposable dish wipes here).

Though it would be ideal for students with canteens to carry them home each day for washing, and this should be encouraged, those electing to keep their canteens at school should store them (emptied and dried), preferably, in their lockers or assigned space, or in cabinets or designated areas within their homeroom or designated classes. Students should also initial or write their names on their canteens with permanent markers.

Routine Quality Inspections of Water Fountains

School custodians and faculty generally should be required to perform and/or more frequently perform routine quality checks of campus water fountains to assure that water spouts, and the fountains as a whole, are clean and free of ants and other insects, that water pressure is sufficiently high, that there are no leaks (internal or from spouts), and that the water is cold,[3] and thus more conducive to drinking. Custodians should daily clean the water spouts on school fountains with disposal dish wipes, and run the water for a brief period to assure that any detergent from the wipes is washed away.

Studies have linked high microbiological colony counts to poor visual hygiene assessments (dirt, mold, chewing gum, etc.) and low water pressure, which forces students to put their mouths on the spouts to drink water.

Fountains near toilets or school restrooms run the risk of cross contamination due to their situational arrangement or location, and in light of the fact that some students do not wash their hands after use of lavatories, though they should, and schools should strongly encourage this amongst all students.

(Statistical source: Nutrition and Food Science, Volume 32, Number 1, 2002, pp 9-12, “Drinking water in schools: hygiene standards at fountains,” authors Kim Walters and Geoff Cram)

Mounting Posters and Distributing Circulars on Water Facts/the Benefits of Drinking Water

Mounting posters that are entailing of information of relevance to water facts and/or the benefits[4] of drinking water in school cafeterias and/or near water fountains, which should be sanitized daily, throughout schools, juxtapose making disposable cups for water and ice and/or bottled water available to students [and staff] during school lunch periods, and permitting students to carry and sip from water bottles and/or canteens throughout each school day, would provide perpetual encouragement for students [and staff/faculty] to consume sufficient amounts of water.

Synonymous informative circulars or brochures should also be made available for student and public retrieval from school administrative offices; the circulars or brochures should discuss water benefits, as well as the importance and significance of iron and good health, generally, to cognitive performance. They should also highlight availability of school trace element testing and treatment of iron and other deficiencies, should this become a component of Wellchild and any other annual school health examinations. This would be a wonderful method of better educating students, parents, etc. on the importance of good health to academic performance, and of health-related resources that should be available in or through all schools, to assure or endeavor at best to assure that students never lag in performance due to dehydration, iron deficiency, or any other treatable health issues.

[1] Some restaurants intrinsically serve water with meals and other beverages.

[2]Students could deposit ice into their canteens from cafeteria ice machines during lunch hours.

[3] When water from a fountain is not cold, the fountain might be unplugged, there could be a thermostat, relay, or overload problem, or there could be other problems that warrant servicing. When water continues to dribble from a spout after releasing the push bar, the (Solenoid) valve may need to be replaced. If it’s an internal leak, the drain gasket, cooling tank, or push in fittings may be the problem.

[4] Water is also known to prevent and/or remedy acne, which is prevalent amongst adolescents, and other skin defects, as well as fatigue, headaches, backaches, and other ailments.  Our bodies are about 60% water, and our brains are about 70% water.  Water is absolutely essential to weight loss and/or maintaining ideal weight.