San Diego Unified Adopts Stringent Water Quality Standard

At the July 25, 2017 Board of Education meeting, the San Diego Unified School District voted to adopt a visionary drinking water remediation plan. The new plan sets a strict lead in drinking water action level of 5 parts per billion. This new action level is one third of the state and federal government action level of 15 parts per billion and matches the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for bottled drinking water. This stringent lead action level is the lowest among California school districts and establishes San Diego Unified as a national leader in water quality standards. You can read the Board presentation here.

By setting the lowest lead action level of any school district in California, the drinking water plan requires the remediation of lead identified by drinking water sampling conducted by the City of San Diego in April-June 2017, even when those levels meet state and federal water quality standards. To ensure all water outlets that may be used for drinking or food preparation meet the district’s strict new standard, the district will sample all  of the remaining water outlets used for human consumption across the entire district. This sampling project will include early childhood education facilities and central offices, which were specifically excluded from the State Water Resources Control Board school sampling program. The district wide sampling project is expected to take 3 years to complete and will initially focus on sites previously identified by the city as having lead levels that met state and federal standards but exceed the district’s new action level.

Water Testing

San Diego Unified School District will continue to follow California State Water Resources Control Board protocol whereby faucets and fountains are sampled after a minimum six hours of inactivity. Samples will be collected by trained staff members and delivered to a National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) certified private lab for analysis.

Post-Testing Response

As test results are received, schools and families will be quickly notified. Sample results will be posted online and are available for review here.  

Results which exceed the district’s newly established action level will be addressed by Physical Plant Operations (PPO) staff. Upon notification of an exceedance PPO staff will immediately secure the sample point(s) over 5 parts per billion, deliver bottled water if needed, and undertake corrective actions. Corrective actions can encompass fixture replacement, piping replacement, and/or the installation of point-of-use filtration.


Water for all San Diego Unified School District sites is provided by the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department. The city, as a municipal water provider, is required to comply with state and federal regulations and, as such, it conducts numerous water quality tests and produces related reports. The standards of quality for the water it provides are extremely high.

As a result of a December 20, 2016, permit action by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Division of Drinking Water, all community water providers, including the City of San Diego, are required to test up to five water samples per K-12 school site for lead in drinking water.

District staff met with representatives from the Public Utilities Department to discuss water sampling and formally requested sampling at all sites covered by this permit amendment. All of the water sampling under this program was completed in early June 2017. District staff then developed the recently adopted water remediation plan which was adopted by the Board of Education on July 25, 2017.

Additional Resources

Media Contact Information

Maureen Magee
Communications Director