Welcome to the State of California 

Drinking Water and Radiation Laboratory

Updated:  May 20, 2011


The California Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water and Radiation Laboratory (DWRL), formerly the Sanitation and Radiation Laboratory (SRL), is  within the Division of Drinking Water and Environmental Management (DDWEM). DWRL is the State’s primary drinking water quality testing laboratory and is the only State laboratory capable of measuring environmental radiation. Its primary mission is to provide analytical services, reference measurements and technical support pertaining to the State’s Drinking Water Program and Radiologic Health Program.

Specifically, DWRL provides a supporting role in assuring that the drinking water is free of contaminants, healthful and suitable for human consumption. DWRL tests water for inorganic contaminant metals such as lead and arsenic, anions such as nitrate, fluoride, and cyanide, organic contaminants such as pesticides and gasoline products. The Radiochemistry group measures radioactivity in environmental samples, identifies and quantifies naturally occurring and man-made radionuclides. The Biomonitoring and Chemical Agent group tests for various chemical contaminants in human tissue samples.

DWRL has two laboratories.  DWRL's Southern California Section is located in Los Angeles and performs microbiological, inorganic and organic testing in various water matrices. The Northern California Section, located in Richmond, carries out inorganic and organic analyses in water, and radiochemical testing in various environmental matrices in addition to water.

What we do:

The two sections serve different geographical communities within California and provide a measure of redundancy to maintain response capability in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes or terrorism events. DWRL has the following responsibilities:

  • Serves as a reference laboratory to other federal, state, county and local government laboratories and CDPH' s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP). In this role it is called upon to evaluate methods and validate results generated by other laboratories. On occasion, in this capacity, DWRL may analyze split samples with other laboratories. Although ELAP has the primary responsibility to assure that the data generated by a certified laboratory are reliable, DWRL may function in a quality assurance mode to resolve disputes as they may arise.
  • Analyzes samples submitted by the engineers of the Drinking Water Program for monitoring and compliance purposes or under the check sampling protocol to verify data reliability.
  • Analyzes samples submitted by health physicists in relation to enforcement pertinent State regulations and performs quality assurance on samples collected from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed facilities.
  • Provides technical assistance to engineers and health physicists on appropriate analytical services.
  • Trains field staff in sampling techniques for various analytes in diverse environmental systems.
  • Develops and validates methods for contaminants in various water matrices. These contaminants may be emerging chemicals that pose a public health threat or those that are newly regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • The laboratory participates in special studies (including emergencies arising out of natural disasters such as earthquakes and man-made events such as terrorism events) relating to issues of public health concerns on an as needed basis in collaboration with other Agencies, Departments or other Divisions within CDPH.
  • Works closely with Drinking Water Program and Radiologic Health Branch in providing assistance in drafting regulations and bill analysis.
  • Provides technical assistance to ELAP in support of their program for accreditation of commercial environmental testing laboratories.
  • Provides consultation services in water analyses to other state agencies (e.g., Department of Water Resources, State Water  Resources Control Board and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards, and Department of Fish and Game), local governments (counties and cities), water purveyors and the public.
  • Reviews and comments on sampling plans submitted by water utilities and/or their consultants; provides technical support to fulfill these requests.
  • Reviews and evaluate environmental data generated by commercial and other government laboratories.

Credentials and Certifications

  • Maintains primacy for the State of California under the Safe Drinking Water Act by participating in the Performance Evaluation Program and Site inspections conducted by US EPA. DWRL receives water supply and water pollution performance evaluation samples from the performance evaluation sample providers. Radiochemical performance evaluation samples are received from separate performance evaluation sample providers. The results of these analyses are sent to the respective providers for evaluation. Certification officers from US EPA (Region IX) inspect the State's laboratories every three years for microbiological, inorganic, organic, and radiochemical testing. Based on the evaluations of the performance evaluation sample programs and the site inspections, these laboratories have maintained a continuous certification status from the inception of the program.
  • Maintains analytical capability readiness for terrorism response by successful participation in performance evaluation sample program.
  • Participates in DOE’s Mixed Analyte Performance Evaluation Program and the Quality Assessment Program in support of the work performed for DOE and NRC.

Clients and Ancillary Functions

DWRL’s principal clients are the Drinking Water Program's Field Operations Branches and Technical Programs Branch, the Environmental Management Branch, and the Radiologic Health Branch.

DWRL has interagency agreements with the State Water Resources Control Board to provide analytical services.

CDPH's Environmental Microbial Diseases Section of the Microbial Diseases Laboratory, Division of Communicable Disease Control, has an agreement with the Drinking Water Program to provide:

  • Analysis of water samples for microorganisms.
  • Provide additional technical support on an as needed basis to the Drinking Water Program.
  • Provides microbiological analytical support in a terrorism event.
  • Test for shellfish poisons and microorganisms in shellfish and shellfish growing waters.

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Last modified on: 5/20/2011 10:49 AM