Increasing Access to Drinking Water

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What we drink can affect our health, and calories from drinks can add up quickly. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, coffees and teas, and sports and energy drinks, are the largest source of added sugars and are major contributors of calories to Americans’ diets.

Daily SSB intake is associated with adverse health consequences, including tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Water is a zero-calorie and thirst quenching beverage that when substituted for SSBs provides health benefits such as reduced tooth decay and improved weight management. Increasing access to free drinking water is one strategy to support individuals who want to decrease SSB and caloric intake.

Many public health agencies and organizations are helping improve access to drinking water in a variety of settings, including worksites, parks and recreation centers, schools and child care facilities. For example, several children’s hospitals engaged in the Children’s Hospital Association’s “FOCUS on a Fitter Future” Adobe PDF file project and have introduced healthier options in their cafeterias for employees and visitors, including offering healthier beverages such as water.

To meet New York City’s goal of increasing water intake among students, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provided waterjetsExternal Web Site Icon (drinking water dispensers) in more than 1,000 public schools across the city through funding from CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. The installation of waterjets in these schools can benefit students and staff. An evaluation of the waterjets showed a three-fold increase in water drinking among students.

CDC has toolkits available that give information on how to increase access to free drinking water for children in early care and education settings Adobe PDF file and in schools Adobe PDF file.

Drinking water instead of drinking SSBs is a healthier alternative. Learn ways to make better beverage choices at Rethink Your Drink.

By Sohyun Park, PhD


Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

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Page last reviewed: November 2, 2015
Page last updated: November 2, 2015