Promoting Tap Water

California utility demonstrates the high quality of tap water with bottle fill stations in local schools and community centers

Promoting Tap Water

Students and staff at schools can stay hydrated with cold tap water from newly installed water bottle filling stations like this one provided by Eastern Municipal Water District.

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Eastern Municipal Water District created water bottle fill stations for its schools and community gathering places to promote its tap water.

The staff, with support from the board of directors for the utility in Perris, California, came up with the idea in 2014 because some residents had negative perceptions of tap water versus bottled water. 

“A lot of people are not educated on where their water is coming from,” says Amanda Fine, public affairs manager. “They assume bottled water is better when in reality many bottled water producers get their water from entities like us.”

The district provides drinking water, wastewater treatment and recycled water to nearly 1 million people within a 558-square-mile service area in western Riverside County. In addition to water filtration, the utility treats 43 mgd of wastewater per day arriving through more than 1,800 miles of sewer pipeline.


The bottle fill station program was promoted through flyers, park districts and the utility’s website, but mostly through word of mouth. On the website during late summer, the district sends a notice that school will soon start and that parents are reminded to pack their children’s reusable water bottles.

The fill stations help promote tap water quality, environmental stewardship and reusable water bottles. There are 126 water fill stations in the community, 115 of them at schools. Other locations include libraries, park departments, community centers and county agencies. The recipients are encouraged to place them in highly visible spots protected from the elements.

“Our mission is to serve our community today and tomorrow,” says Fine. “What a better way to promote accessibility and availability of clean, reliable tap water than to support our schools and public community centers by placing fill stations at these sites?”

Only one unit is supplied and installed free of charge. If a school or community center wants another unit, the utility delivers it, but the recipient must install and maintain it.

To qualify for a unit, the site must be located within the utility’s service area. The recipient must agree to a co-branded sign with its own and the utility’s logo and must maintain the unit and signage for at least five years. The sign contains the words “Quality, Reliability and Value,” with an icon representing each word.


The units come in single or bi-level configurations. A counter on the unit ticks higher to indicate how many plastic bottles are saved. Every time a user fills up with 16.9 ounces (the amount in a half-liter disposable bottle), the counter goes up one tick.

Traffic to the units ebbs and flows depending on whether school is in session. As of 2019, the 126 units had kept 500,000 plastic water bottles from going to landfills. The units contain a chiller to dispense cold tap water. They are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They have a rapid fill rate of 1 to 1.5 gpm, and their stainless steel exteriors are easy to clean. The utility website shows the locations of all the fill stations.


Besides the fill stations, the district has a water fill van known as the Hydration Station. It stated as a multifaucet fill station deployed at exhibit booths. Later it became a van that pulls up to events within the eight cities and the unincorporated areas in the service territory.

The van is deployed at events including Library Day, grand openings, spring and fall festivals, and other community events. It has a chiller and a water tank but also can be connected to a tap water source to maximize the supply. The van has its own generator that charges a battery bank, which runs all van’s accessories.

District workers staff the unit and provide literature and information to attendees about tap water and how the van and water fill stations are saving disposable bottles from being landfilled. Most attendees bring reusable bottles and fill up at the events, but for those who don’t have one, the utility provides paper cups made of material that can be composted or recycled.

Once the van started going to multiple events, people began asking if their pets could get water. Some bring collapsible water bowls clipped to dogs’ leashes; if they don’t have one, the utility supplies them.

“The Hydration Station and the water fill stations are increasingly popular with the public and our residents,” says Fine. “They are becoming educated on how great our tap water is.”


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