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Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Apr 17;11:E60. doi: 10.5888/pcd11.130314.

Student-reported school drinking fountain availability by youth characteristics and state plumbing codes.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Obesity Prevention and Control Branch, 4770 Buford Hwy, NE, MS K-77, Atlanta, GA 30341. E-mail:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts.



Caloric intake among children could be reduced if sugar-sweetened beverages were replaced by plain water. School drinking water infrastructure is dictated in part by state plumbing codes, which generally require a minimum ratio of drinking fountains to students. Actual availability of drinking fountains in schools and how availability differs according to plumbing codes is unknown.


We abstracted state plumbing code data and used the 2010 YouthStyles survey data from 1,196 youth aged 9 through 18 years from 47 states. We assessed youth-reported school drinking fountain or dispenser availability and differences in availability according to state plumbing codes, sociodemographic characteristics, and area-level characteristics.


Overall, 57.3% of youth reported that drinking fountains or dispensers in their schools were widely available, 40.1% reported there were only a few, and 2.6% reported that there were no working fountains. Reported fountain availability differed significantly (P < .01) by race/ethnicity, census region, the fountain to student ratio specified in plumbing codes, and whether plumbing codes allowed substitution of nonplumbed water sources for plumbed fountains. "Widely available" fountain access ranged from 45.7% in the West to 65.4% in the Midwest and was less common where state plumbing codes required 1 fountain per more than 100 students (45.4%) compared with 1 fountain per 100 students (60.1%) or 1 fountain per fewer than 100 students (57.6%).


Interventions designed to increase consumption of water may want to consider the role of plumbing codes in availability of school drinking fountains.

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