By Jesus Vargas
A majority of Eastern Coachella Valley students surveyed in an online poll conducted by Coachella Unincorporated cite dirty, unappealing school water fountains as the main reason they forgo drinking from water fountains at school.
Coachella Unincorporated, a youth media startup in the eastern Coachella Valley, conducted an online survey to gauge the main reason public school students pass on using school water fountains, often opting for sugary drinks sold at school instead, despite new state legislation that requires schools to provide clean and free drinking water to students during meal times.
Out of 30 students surveyed online, nearly half (45.8 percent) cite dirty fountains as the main reason for not using school water fountains, followed by water from the fountains being warm or hot (35.8 percent), followed by student fears of water impurity at 34 percent.
When it comes to the actual use of water fountains, 16.7 percent said they never use water fountains, while 26.7 percent stated they use water fountains only a couple of times a week and 23.3 percent said they use fountains at least once a day.
When asked what students drink instead of water at school fountains, 56.7 percent answered they bring water bottles from home, 30 percent purchase water bottles at school and 13.3 percent prefer to drink something other than water entirely. A clear majority—93.3 percent of students—said that if their schools had clean, accessible water fountains they would use them.
The survey illustrates that Eastern Coachella Valley students do use water fountains but are concerned about their condition. Students routinely avoid water fountains that are dirty and weathered because this gives them the suspicion the water is not safe. Many times in the absence of a nearby fountain they consider adequate, students choose to buy sugary sports drinks and juices instead.
The second most prominent obstacle to fountain use, according to this survey, is that the water from fountains often comes out hot or warm, which is a problem in the Coachella Valley, where temperatures often hit the triple-digits.
While schools may technically be in compliance with the new state law because of the existence of water fountains on campus, students surveyed by Coachella Unincorporated clearly believe the fountains in their current condition don’t do enough to encourage healthy choices.
Those students say that until schools clean up or acquire new water fountains, many students will continue to opt for less healthy forms of hydration that can lead to health complications, like obesity and diabetes—both of which are pervasive issues in the East Valley.