- San Francisco is adding more water bottle refill stations, called "drink tap stations," throughout the city where citizens can fill their reusable bottles with free tap water.
- An additional 14 stations will be installed in parks and open spaces and 22 will be installed in schools. They join the existing 155 (and 18 others pending installation) that have been installed since the program began in 2010.
- A total of $805,000 in funding was set aside for the project in this year's budget. The funds come from the city's soda tax, which was approved by voters in November 2016 and took effect in January 2018. This is the first year soda tax funds have been used to install public drink tap stations, and the second year it was used for drink tap stations in schools.
San Francisco is expanding citizens' access to free, clean water at a time when water amenities such as drinking fountains and public pools are threatened or disappearing in other cities, largely due to budget crunches. The soda tax revenue gives San Francisco another funding option to boost the drink tap station program.
The sugary drinks tax imposes a one cent tax per fluid ounce on most non-alcoholic, sugar-sweetened beverage, syrup or powder. The tax is paid by sugary beverage distributors, not through retail sales. An advisory committee was established to evaluate the impact of the tax and suggest ways to use the revenue to improve public health. Advocates heavily tout the measure as a way to cut down on children's sugar consumption to improve their health.
The drink tap station program also is viewed as a measure to improve children's health by getting them to drink more water. The station locations are heavily concentrated in schools. The Sugary Drinks Distributor Advisory Committee and the school district are working together to implement lessons for students and their families about the importance of drinking more water.
"If we're serious about moving children away from sugary, unhealthy beverages then we need to provide healthy alternatives," Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "We have worked hard to address this equity issue by installing clean, healthy water tap stations throughout San Francisco."
Providing free water is also intended to encourage citizens to use refillable containers instead of purchasing single-use water bottles, which reduces waste.
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission works with city agencies and other partners to determine locations where installing drink tap stations best meets the goal of increasing access to water. Priority areas include vulnerable communities with equity issues and lack of access to healthy drinking options.