Study Ties Water Stations to Increased Water Consumption in Rural Areas

New study suggests installing drinking water stations at community sites may increase water consumption by rural California communities with unsafe drinking water

Approximately 300 California communities have public water systems (utilities) that provide tap water that does not meet safety standards. In these communities, residents must purchase bottled water in order to have safe drinking water.

Agua4All, a cross-sector partnership with funding from The California Endowment, tested the installation of water bottle filling stations dispensing safe water as a means to help communities access quality tap water. Tap water, even when filtration is used, is less costly than bottled water.

In one of the first studies to look at how promoting and increasing access to safe drinking water in communities with non-potable drinking water impacts community-level water consumption, community sites in Kern County, California received new, public drinking water bottle filling stations.

The study, led by Anisha Patel, MD, of Stanford University, was published in Preventing Chronic Disease. Researchers found that, compared to sites with traditional drinking fountains, community members at sites with the new water bottle filling stations drank more water. This increase in water consumption was higher in sites that added site-developed promotional activities.

Both regulated contaminants (such as arsenic and nitrates) and unregulated contaminants (such as PFAS and other perfluorinated compounds) in California’s water are increasingly recognized as health risks in some communities' tap water. The Agua4All program offers a short-term strategy for providing safe drinking water until longer-term infrastructure improvements, such as those funded through S.B. 200, California’s new Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, are in place.

The paper was one of the 10 Most Talked About Articles of 2019 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

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