Mayor London N. Breed today announced the expansion of drink tap stations to provide San Franciscans with access to free, high-quality tap water. With a total of $805,000 in funding set aside in this year’s budget, San Francisco’s innovative drink tap stations are set to expand across the City, as every public school and more parks and open spaces will soon be enrolled in the program.
In the City budget for Fiscal Years 2019-20 and 2020-21, Mayor Breed set aside $640,000 over two years for the Recreation and Parks Department and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to install drink tap stations throughout the City. With the new funding allocation, SFUSD will install approximately 22 additional stations at schools, and Rec and Park will install approximately 14 more water stations in parks and open spaces. SFUSD currently has 78 drink taps, and Rec and Park currently has 29 drink taps installed.
The funding allocated by Mayor Breed is from part of the City’s Soda Tax, which was introduced to protect children from the harmful impacts of sugary beverages. This is the first year that Soda Tax funding has been issued directly to Rec and Park to install drink tap stations, and the second year it has been used to benefit the SFUSD.
“If we’re serious about moving children away from sugary, unhealthy beverages then we need to provide healthy alternatives,” said Mayor Breed. “We have worked hard to address this equity issue by installing clean, healthy water tap stations throughout San Francisco. Thanks to the City’s Soda Tax, we are expanding this important program, ensuring that every student in our public school system has access to our great tap water.”
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) started the drink tap program in 2010, installing lead-free water bottle refilling stations to provide everyone with free access to high-quality tap water while on the go. The tap stations enable residents to reuse their own container rather than purchase costly single-use bottled water. This encourages conserving natural resources and reduces waste from plastic water bottles.
“We have great tasting drinking water, and we are excited to make our product more accessible to the people of San Francisco,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “Not only are our residents—and in particular our youth—getting a healthy alternative to soda and other sugary drinks, they are also helping to reduce wasteful practices by moving away from plastic bottles.”
The SFPUC works with City agencies, the Board of Supervisors, community-based organizations, health professionals, and community advocates to select station locations that meet the collective goal of increasing water access, especially to the City’s most vulnerable communities. Historically, the SFPUC has installed drink tap stations in communities with equity issues and lack of access to healthy drinking options. Each drink tap station completes water quality testing prior to being available for public consumption.
“Drink tap stations are a way to look after both our planet and our children, who can enjoy clean water while they exercise their bodies and imaginations in our playgrounds,” said Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Through Soda Tax money, we’re improving play spaces in neighborhoods that need it most, providing healthy alternatives to sugary drinks and reducing waste from plastic bottles.”
“Installing more Water Hydration Stations in schools will encourage students and school staff to experience the benefits of drinking water,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “We’re grateful to the City for ensuring all schools receive these stations.”
In addition to installing the hydration stations in schools, SFUSD is collaborating with the Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee to implement lessons for students and families to encourage them to drink more water. Student-led projects at schools will be an integral part of improving the health and academic outcomes for themselves and their families, as well as their schools and local communities. Educators will also receive professional development to help them promote the importance of drinking more water.
Along with the Soda Tax revenue, $165,000 will be allocated directly to the SFPUC for installation of drink tap stations in various public areas. Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer advocated for that additional funding for drink tap stations during the Board of Supervisors budget addback process during the summer of 2018.
“This investment in Drink Tap infrastructure is truly an equitable investment in the health of our communities and neighborhoods,” said Supervisor Fewer. “I hope that by making stations readily available and accessible we are able to promote water as the preferred and healthy alternative while discouraging consumption of sugary-sweetened-beverages.”
To date, more than 155 stations have been installed across San Francisco, with another 18 currently pending installation.