Welcome to the State of California 

Drinking Water and Radiation Laboratory

Updated:  July 1, 2014

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Drinking Water and Radiation Laboratory (DWRL) is part of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). DWRL is the State’s primary drinking water quality testing laboratory, and is the only State laboratory capable of measuring environmental radiation.  DWRL’s mission is to provide analytical services, reference measurements and technical support to the State’s Drinking Water Program, now the Division of Drinking Water in the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), the Radiologic Health Branch (RHB), and the Environmental Management Branch (EMB).  DWRL also supports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under contract support.  DWRL plays a supporting role by ensuring that California drinking water is healthful and suitable for human consumption.  The DWRL chemistry unit tests water for inorganic contaminants including cyanide, metals such as lead and arsenic, anions such as nitrate and fluoride,, and organic contaminants such as pesticides and petroleum products. The DWRL radiochemistry unit measures radioactivity in environmental samples (e.g., water, soils, air, biota) and identifies and quantifies naturally-occurring and man-made radionuclides.  The DWRL microbiology unit provides environmental microbiology services that support the Drinking Water Program and EMB.  DWRL’s biomonitoring unit determines chemicals and contaminants in human urine and blood specimens.

What we do:

  • Serves as a reference laboratory to federal, state, and local government labs and the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP), a program of SWRCB.  In this role DWRL evaluates method performance, reviews data from other labs, and may analyze split samples.  Although ELAP has the primary responsibility to ensure that certified laboratories provide reliable data, DWRL may serve as a reference laboratory to resolve discrepancies.
  • Analyzes samples submitted by engineers of the Drinking Water Program for monitoring and compliance purposes.
  • Analyzes samples submitted by health physicists supporting enforcement/compliance of State regulations by performing 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 regarding analytical services.
  • Trains field staff in sampling techniques for various environmental media and applications.
  • Develops and validates methods for contaminants in water and other media. These may be contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) that pose a public health threat, or those that are newly regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
  • Conducts special studies (e.g., relating to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, drought, and fires, as well as accidents or deliberate contamination) of public health interest in collaboration with other Agencies, Departments and CDPH programs.
  • Assists Drinking Water Program, Radiologic Health Branch, Environmental Management Branch, and Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program in bill analysis and regulation development.
  • Provides technical assistance to Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program in support of accreditation activities.
  • Consults regarding drinking water testing for chemical, microbiological and radioactive contaminants, and lab issues related to environmental radioactivity and environmental microbiology.  For example, DWRL serves SWRCB, Regional Water Quality Control Boards, Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife and local government agencies.
  • Reviews or develops sampling plans for field studies, provides sampling materials, preservatives and sampling guidance.
  • Provides outreach to the medical community regarding shipping and packaging of clinical samples (for emergency response)
  • Provides emergency public health laboratory response in support of the Drinking Water Program, Emergency Preparedness Office, federal CDC and other partners.   

Credentials and Certifications

  • Maintains primacy for the State of California under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by participating in the Performance Evaluation Program and inspections conducted by the US EPA in Chemistry, Microbiology and Radiochemistry.  DWRL analyzes water supply (WS) and water pollution (WP) performance evaluation (PE) samples which address proficiency for drinking water and wastewater matrices, respectively.  Yearly PE samples are analyzed in each specialization including chemistry, drinking water microbiology and radiochemistry.  PE results are sent to PE sample providers for evaluation as well as USEPA (Region IX).  Every three years USEPA audits DWRL’s microbiological, inorganic, organic, and radiochemical testing -- based on these audits DWRL has maintained continuous certification since the inception of the program.
  • Maintains analytical capability for analysis of human blood and urine specimens by participating in federal CDC’s quality assurance program in accordance with clinical laboratory guidelines.   
  • Participates in DOE’s Mixed Analyte Performance Evaluation Program (MAPEP) in support of the work performed for DOE and NRC. 

Clients and Affiliations

DWRL’s principal clients are the Field Operations Branches and the Program Management Branch of SWRCB's Division of Drinking Water; DWRL is supported, in part, by contract with SWRCB.

DWRL also provides radiochemistry laboratory services to the Radiologic Health Branch and Environmental Management Branch.

DWRL environmental microbiology services support the Drinking Water Program, recreational water quality programs of the Environmental Management Branch and State Water Resources Control Board and EMB’s Preharvest Shellfish Program. 

DWRL is supported, in part, by the federal CDC and serves as California’s Laboratory Response Network (LRN-C) Level 1 laboratory.  

DWRL is a member of the USEPA Environmental Response Laboratory Network (ERLN) and the Water Laboratory Alliance (WLA)

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Last modified on: 3/25/2015 4:17 PM