El Camino Real school assembly photo



Safe water access in schools and communities

In many rural California communities, inadequate infrastructure and contaminated water are commonplace. Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and a foundation for healthy communities and schools, but this is not a reality for more than one million Californians. Contaminants such as arsenic can cause cancer, thyroid problems and other serious health issues.

But even in communities where the water meets federal and state requirements, adults and children alike often do not use the drinking fountains in schools, parks and other public places because they are either broken or dirty and unappealing. When reluctant to drink the public water supply, many low-income families spend more than 10 percent of their earnings to buy bottled water. Many also choose to consume sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) instead of water.

This is a serious health concern, particularly because diabetes in California has increased by 35 percent during the last 10 years. A UCLA Center for Health and Policy Research study found that nearly half of all California adults are prediabetic.

The California Endowment launched Agua4All in 2014, a pilot project in partnership with nonprofit organizations Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Community Water Center and Pueblo Unido CDC. The team installed nearly 200 water bottle filling stations in California communities, of which 81 were installed in South Kern and 78 were installed in Eastern Coachella Valley. More than 127 point-of-use arsenic filters have also been installed in Arvin.

Agua4All raises awareness about California’s drinking water crisis; builds community partnerships to install water bottle filling stations in schools and neighborhoods where they’re needed most; identifies funding sources; and develops long-term solutions for California’s water quality and access problems.

Evaluation results released in summer 2016, show that—after installing water bottle filling stations and promoting consumption—students in the Eastern Coachella Valley are drinking more water. After water bottle filling station installations in South Kern, residents drank 57 cups of water per day on average in Lamont and 58 cups per day in Arvin. In Lamont, after installation, water consumption increased from 5 to 12 percent. In addition to the new infrastructure, RCAC and partners also supported an education and promotional campaign, which increased water consumption from 12 to 26 percent of residents per day. Since summer 2015, when the gradual installation of more than 127 point of use arsenic remediation filters began in Arvin, residents have consumed more than 100,000 gallons of treated, safe drinking water.

Also, read “Eastern Coachella Valley students drink more water thanks to Agua4All program,” — this article was published in August after program evaluation showed increased water consumption.)

Now that the pilot has concluded, RCAC plans to expand the project statewide to help other disadvantaged communities throughout rural California

What is a water bottle filling station?

Boy using water filling station

A water bottle filling station is a source where people access safe water through a fountain spout or by filling up reusable water bottles. In areas where safe water is not accessible, water bottle filling stations will include certified water treatment, like a point-of-use filter, to treat water on-site.

Project benefits

Agua4All will:

  • Fund water bottle filling stations in schools and community locations to help deliver safe, appealing, and affordable drinking water.
  • Provide education on local water quality issues and promote healthy beverage choices.
  • Ensure students stay hydrated, which has been linked to higher academic performance.
  • Help schools comply with state and federal laws that require access to free, fresh drinking water during meal times (SB1413 and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act).
  • Help residents save money spent on alternative safe water sources, like bottled water.
  • Reduce disposable plastic bottle waste by encouraging tap water consumption and reusable water bottle use.
  • Establish models and success stories for others schools, communities, funders and policy makers throughout California on how to access and promote safe water.

Water education and promotional materials for kids and community members

Project assistance

The project team is ready to help assist you throughout the entire process, including the following:

  • Offer a tailored menu of filling station options from Agua4All vendors and selection recommendations based on your site needs and preferences.
  • Provide training and educational materials on local water quality issues; unit operations and maintenance; and how to promote safe water consumption.
  • Identify additional funding sources from federal and state agencies, private funders and other in-kind partners to help ensure that the project is affordable, cover costs such as installation, infrastructure upgrades, water quality testing and treatment, reusable water bottles and ongoing operations and maintenance.

How can you help?

  • Like Agua4All on Facebook and follow us on Twitter #agua4all.
  • Tell your friends and neighbors about the problem and why it matters for California’s future.
  • Urge your state legislator to demand safe water for all and work toward long-term water solutions that increase access to safe and affordable drinking water.
  • Share information about Agua4All with your local school district or city manager to see if your community would be a good fit for the program.

Need water bottle filling stations in your school or community

Complete and submit this questionnaire through SurveyMonkey to be contacted and placed on a waiting list or contact RCAC staff (see contacts below).

For more information, please email:


In the news

To see where units have been installed in the Eastern Coachella Valley, click here >>

To see where units have been installed in Kern County, click here >>