Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.6 Water Supply and Plumbing Drinking Fountains

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 4/12/2023.

Drinking fountains should have an angled water head and mouth guard above the rim of the fountain. The water pressure should be set so the water stream does not touch the mouth guard or splash on the floor, but the water should rise at least 2 inches above the mouth guard. At least 18 inches of space should separate the drinking fountain and any kind of towel dispenser.

Drinking fountains should be cleaned often with fragrance-free soap or detergent and water, when visibly dirty, and throughout the day. If using a cleaner other than fragrance-free soap and water, programs should choose a product that has safer chemical ingredients and is certified by a third party (Safer Choice, Green Seal, or UL Ecologo). Programs should disinfect drinking fountains at the end of the day. To decrease exposure to harmful chemicals, programs can choose a disinfectant product certified by the EPA’s Design for the Environment program.

For more information on water supply and safety, please see the related standards below.


Having access to drinking water gives children a healthy alternative to sugary drinks.1 Adequate hydration also may improve cognitive function in children and adolescents.2 Protecting drinking water from contamination is important to avoid the spread of disease. Moist surfaces, such as drinking fountains in early childhood programs, can be sources of rotavirus, norovirus, and Shigella contamination during an outbreak.3

Space between a drinking fountain and a sink or a towel dispenser helps prevent contamination of the drinking fountain by germs that are splashed or deposited during use. Teach children how to drink from a drinking fountain when they are developmentally ready and can avoid mouthing the fountain.


For more information on selecting a cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting product, please refer to CFOC Appendix J.

The use of products that have safer (less toxic) chemicals help reduce health and environmental concerns. Organizations now certify and label products that meet certain health and environmental standards. These certifications can help identify less hazardous cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting products. Safer disinfectant options can be found at: Using the least hazardous products available will assist in protecting the health of children and early care and education staff.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start
RELATED STANDARDS Availability of Drinking Water Water Supply Testing for Lead and Copper Levels in Drinking Water Cross-Connections Testing for and Remediating Lead Hazards
Appendix J: Selection and Use of a Cleaning, Sanitizing or Disinfecting Product
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Water access in schools. Web site. Reviewed September 28, 2022. Accessed November 20, 2022

  2. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, et al. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping. 2011;32:71–79

  3. Mattison CP, Calderwood LE, Marsh, ZA, et al. Childcare and school acute gastroenteritis outbreaks: 2009–2020. Pediatrics. 2022;150(5). Published October 24, 2022. Accessed November 20, 2022

  4. National Center for Healthy Housing.  Lead-Safe Toolkit for Home-Based Child Care: General Resources. Accessed March 29, 2023.


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 4/12/2023.