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Am J Prev Med. 2012 Sep;43(3 Suppl 2):S95-101. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.016.

Getting back on tap: the policy context and cost of ensuring access to low-cost drinking water in Massachusetts schools.

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Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02215,



Adequate water intake may have important health benefits for schoolchildren. Layers of federal, state, and local policy are relevant to provision of water within schools. Recently passed state and federal laws require free drinking-water access for students during mealtimes.


To review Massachusetts local district wellness policies related to water access, provide estimates of costs for three water-provision strategies, and discuss implications for policy relevant to adequate drinking-water access.


Legal research was conducted using the LexisNexis legal database and government websites. Local wellness policies were double-coded using existing research tools. Costs of three water-delivery options were estimated using a 10-year school-district perspective.


Prior to 2010, most Massachusetts public school district wellness policies (92%-94%) did not address access to free drinking water. Ten-year costs per school for providing water during mealtimes to students, including dispenser unit, installation, water testing, water, cups, and labor, range between $12,544 and $27,922 (depending on water-delivery option) assuming the average Massachusetts school enrollment. Water-provision strategies relying on tap water are more economical than bottled water in the long term.


Policy recommendations and cost considerations deserve attention at the local, state, and federal levels. Recommendations are discussed to ensure access to safe, free drinking water for all students.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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