Where: Southern Kern County and Eastern Coachella Valley, Riverside County, California
Problem: Californians lack access to safe drinking water, and children and families face negative health impacts.
Solution: Through the Agua4All program, RCAC has installed nearly 200 water bottle filling stations in schools and communities throughout the state to increase access to and consumption of safe drinking water.
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 impacted, and this contributes to a public health crisis. One in three Hispanics and nearly half of the state’s adults are pre-diabetic.
Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) launched the Agua4All program with support from The California Endowment in 2014. It was piloted in schools in the Eastern Coachella Valley and southern Kern County in partnership with Community Water Center and Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation.
Agua4All successfully spotlights the lack of safe drinking water access in schools and communities and dilapidated water fountain infrastructure; and it encourages unique public-private partnerships to increase access and promote consumption. 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. In Arvin, where arsenic contamination is present, program staff installed 127 point-of-use arsenic treatment filters that ensure the water is safe for local residents.
Initial evaluation results, released in summer 2016, show that students are drinking more water—a result of the water bottle filling stations and educational curriculum designed to encourage drinking water rather than sugary drinks.
The project has attracted national attention and enjoyed great success—so much so that it is now expanding beyond the pilot areas, with a plan to install at least 200 more water-bottle filling stations in disadvantaged rural communities throughout the state during 2017.
RCAC is proud to announce that based on the need throughout the state and the pilot program’s success, the state of California has included $10 million in its most recent annual budget targeted to the Agua4All program. The funds will be used to install bottle filling stations and treatment where necessary to increase safe water access and consumption. RCAC will provide technical assistance to schools to access the funding, especially in disadvantaged communities.