#RCAP50: Agua4All Program Helps Students Choose Water Over Soft Drinks
Location: Merced County, California
Problem: Some areas of the community lack access to safe drinking water.
Solution: Through the Agua4All program, RCAC installed water bottle filling stations in county schools and distributed reusable water bottles.
More than one million Californians lack access to safe drinking water, and their only alternatives are expensive bottled water or sugary beverages. Low-income, predominately Hispanic communities in the state are disproportionately affected, contributing to a public health crisis whereby one in three Hispanics and nearly half of the state’s adults are pre-diabetic.
The Agua4All program was launched with the support of The California Endowment in 2014 and initiated at schools in the Eastern Coachella Valley and southern Kern County on. The idea is simple: install water bottle filling stations where they are needed most, such as in schools and community centers, and include water treatment where necessary. Moreover, the program advocates for sustainable long-term solutions to ensure safe drinking water for all.
In 2018, RCAC brought Agua4All to the Ballico-Cressey School District in Merced County, where it has installed drinking fountains funded with a Dignity Health grant. RCAC continued to help the communities of Planada and Le Grand in Merced County. Staff installed 26 water bottle filling stations at four schools and distributed more than 1,600 reusable water bottles. The Merced River School District installed six units and distributed 200 reusable water bottles. The Delhi Unified School District installed 19 units and distributed more than 2,600 water bottles. And the Livingston School District installed 16 stations among its schools.
Agua4All has successfully raised awareness about the lack of safe drinking water access in schools and communities. It also underscores water quality concerns, as well as dilapidated water fountain infrastructure, and encourages a unique public-private partnership to increase access and promote consumption.
Outreach and communication to students and communities have played a large role in Agua4All’s success. RCAC staff have introduced Wally the Water Droplet, a mascot designed to appeal to youth and adults alike, and outreach and education materials including brochures, safe water station signs, children’s activity books, classroom curricula and social media. RCAC staff also attend community events where they share program information and discuss the benefits of drinking safe water.
Staff worked with a drinking water advocates coalition to successfully secure an additional $6.8 million in the 2018-19 California state budget for the Drinking Water for Schools Grant Program, which was originally established in the 2016 budget.