Unit 3: Incentives to drink water


Countries within the EU will have guidelines and regulations in place that are concerned with drinking water in schools. [Insert different country guidelines] In 2013, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent wrote the school Food Plan, which aimed to improve school food. Following the release of the plan, a new set of standards for all food served in schools was launched by the Department for Education. They become mandatory in all maintained schools, and new academies and free schools from January 2015. Amongst other things, the standards stated that free, fresh drinking water should be available at all times.

More recently, in 2016 the Department for Education produced the guidance document, School Food in England: Departmental advice for governing boards. This guidance is based upon government legislation from 2014 titled ‘the requirements for school food regulations 2014’. As well as offer advice to school governors relating to school food, the 2016 document highlights that drinking water must be provided free of charge at all times on school premises.


Studies have shown that when water drinking was promoted in schools, more learners drank water, learners drank more water and fewer learners were observed drinking soft drinks. Promotion is done in order to make learners aware of what has been done by the school to make drinking water more accessible. It is also important that promotion focuses on education and provides an opportunity for young people to learn about the benefits of drinking more water:

  • Posters: These can be put up next to new drinking points. This will highlight where drinking water can be accessed. Posters can also be put up in the school dining area where water consumption should be encouraged during meal times. The key messages might include the quality of the water, the health benefits of water, the cost-savings of drinking water, and the environmental benefits of tap water over disposable water bottles.
  • School newsletters and emails: Let the parents know about the school’s plans when you communicate with them and also use this as another opportunity to share the benefits of drinking tap water.
  • Lesson activities: Including content about water into lesson plans. For example, messages about the health benefits or environmental aspects of drinking water can be included in lesson plans for various subjects (e.g., maths and biology) d. Engage the children: Don’t forget to involve the children in the water promotion activities. Engaging children in the development of water promotion campaigns will give them more ownership of the project. For example, you might host a competition where students create posters and videos describing why they like to drink water.

Nudging methods

As seen in the previous section, promotion is an important step in encouraging water drinking in schools. As previously suggested, it makes learners aware of what has been done by the school to make drinking water more accessible. In addition to this, the other benefit of promotion is to act as a reminder to children that they need to drink more water. Informational posters located near drinking points, will act as reminders and ‘nudge’ children into taking a break to drink water when they are thirsty. In addition to posters, there are lots of creative ways in which children can be reminded to drink more water.

  • Involve the children: One of the best ways is to give children ownership of their water drinking habits. Why not try running a competition in school to see what suggestions the children come up with to encourage more water drinking?
  • Water champions: Some schools have nominated a pupil to be the ‘water champion’ for drinking lots of water and challenging the other children to keep up with him/her.
  • Labels: If you provide cups for drinking, try adding decorated sticky labels saying ‘drink me’ to encourage the pupils to drink water.
  • Awareness raising: One school in the UK collected empty plastic water bottles and made a model of a man from the bottles, which the children named ‘Hydro Man’. They campaigned around the school with posters, getting children to complete a survey they had designed to measure how much water their class mates drank before and after the challenge. Hydro Man was placed in a prominent place in the school to remind the children to drink water. This kind of project could also be used to look at plastic waste and alternatives to plastic bottles.
  • Provide water bottles: In Vienna, Austria, the local water company provided all primary schools with water bottles for children to use. Schools reported that by having their own water bottle, children engaged more with the project and were incentivised to regularly fill up their bottles. If there is a budget for re-useable water bottles, this is also a great opportunity to teach children about the environmental issues relating to water, as well as promoting the re-use and recycling of resources. Below is a short film that details the Vienna Water Schools project.

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