Researchers report change in access to water after a federal and state child care beverage policy was instituted in 2011 and 2012 in California.

Kids who choose water over sweetened beverages lower their obesity risk - and federal and state beverage policies for child-care facilities have made it more likely that children will drink more water, a University of California study finds.

The policies were enacted in 2011 and 2012. Surveys of child care providers in 2008 and 2012 showed that a larger percentage of sites in 2012 than in 2008 always served water at the table with meals or snacks. This is the first study to conduct an evaluation of the impact of federal and state drinking water policy in child care in the United States. After the policies took effect, researchers found significant improvement in the number of care facilities that always served water at the table with meals or snacks; almost half of providers offered self-serve water at the table.

The report says improvements were also found in the number of facilities that made water easily and visibly available for children to serve themselves indoors and outside. Various facilities also used several methods for making water available, with filtered fountains, faucets, and pitchers being the most common indoors and outdoors. Despite these improvements, in 2012 a third of the facilities still reported that they rarely or never made drinking water available to children. The 2012 survey data were collected less than a year after federal and state policies were implemented, and therefore water provision may improve as providers gain familiarity with policy requirements, the researchers note.

"Empowering parents and providers through education and training may help ensure that children have water available to them and also instill a lifelong habit of choosing water when thirsty before 'empty calorie' beverages such as fruit drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages," researchers said.

Study: Drinking Water in California Child Care Sites Before and After 2011-2012 Beverage Policy, Lorrene D. Ritchie, PhD, RD, University of California, Preventing Chronic Disease, published 4 June 2015.