S.F. expanding access to drinking water at schools 

Students at 17 San Francisco schools will have a new form of water to use when they return to classes this fall.

The schools are in the area of Visitacion Valley to West Portal and were chosen because they were in need of water fountains either near or in their cafeterias. That requirement stems from an unfunded state mandate passed in 2010 that requires access to fresh drinking water near where food is served.

When the mandate came out, it was estimated that 40 percent of California schools did not meet the requirement.

Many schools in San Francisco had drinking fountains nearby but oftentimes they were broken or dispensed warm water, according to Laura Page, an arts and education initiative analyst with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

To help quell the problem, the SFPUC offered to partner with the San Francisco Unified School District to help fund and install new refill fountains in schools. The SFPUC also provides students with refillable water bottles and launched an educational program to inform students of where the water comes from.

The project is part of a larger citywide effort to offer more access to free, fresh drinking water. Water, according to the Department of Public Health, is too often replaced by sugary beverages, posing health risks for both children and adults.

Without water, organs have no way of replenishing lost liquid. Additionally, the body works to burn the sugar in drinks instead of the meals they were eaten with, according to the health department. This leads to weight gain and can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver failure.

The health risks are one reason state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 1413 to require schools to offer access to drinking water.

Roughly 36 San Francisco schools will ultimately get the refill stations from the SFPUC. Other schools not included on the list are scheduled for remodels and new construction, which includes water stations in and around cafeterias.

Page said students who already have access to the refill stations seem to be warming to the concept.

"More and more teachers are letting students bring water into the classroom," she said. "It's about getting kids to change behavior and hopefully come home and talk about how delish drinking water is."

Drinking water expansion

The SFPUC is bringing drinking water stations to 17 schools in The City by fall, and some have already been installed.

Schools that have the stations:

• John Yehall Chin Elementary

• Jose Ortega Elementary

• Sutro Elementary

• Tenderloin Community Elementary

• Raoul Wallenberg High

• Alamo Elementary

• S.F. International High

• Spring Valley Elementary

• Visitacion Valley Middle

Schools that will have the stations by summer's end:

• Clarendon Elementary

• Lakeshore Elementary

• Dianne Feinstein Elementary

• Leonard R. Flynn Elementary

• Grattan Elementary

• Claire Lilienthal Elementary

• Sanchez Elementary

• West Portal Elementary

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