Drinking Water Management

toggle interior menu

Western's Drinking Water Management Program

The City of Bellingham boasts some of the cleanest and safest drinking water in the country. The City works with Western’s Institute for Watershed Studies (IWS) to monitor water quality trends in Lake Whatcom. IWS provides detailed annual reports, which are made available on the City of Bellingham website.

Since 2008, Western EHS has taken additional steps to monitor the campus’ drinking water. In October of 2018, Western contracted with an outside consulting company to comprehensively review its Drinking Water Management Program, using EPA-recommended best practices. While there is no federal law requiring universities to test their drinking water. Western determined it in the best interest of the campus community to test priority sites on campus.

While Western’s Drinking Water Management Program covers all campus buildings, with many locations already having been sampled, current monitoring efforts will prioritize the oldest locations on campus which serve the youngest populations. 

Children are the most susceptible to the effects of lead. Their bodies are still undergoing development and they tend to absorb more lead from the environment. Therefore, testing will prioritize older buildings that serve children’s programs including daycare and overnight programs, followed by residences, then academic and administrative facilities.

Water Sampling Information:

A large number of Western’s priority facilities were sampled in 2008 and 2013. Additional resources will be requested to expand the sampling scope to include those locations where there exists a potential for vulnerable populations to overlap with buildings built prior to 1988, as well as buildings that were built between 1988 and 2011. The goal would be to complete sampling by June 2020.

The current sampling project will use three different sample types. They are defined as follows:

  • Initial Samples - “first draw” samples collected directly from the tap after a period of no usage. These are used to initially screen the fixture.
  • Flush Samples – samples that represent the water within the building plumbing. Collected if Initial Samples produce elevated results. Flush Samples are collected following a 30 second flush prior to sample collection.
  • Mitigation Steps – locations that test above the EPA’s recommended limit will be tagged out of service, removed, marked as “Non-Potable Water, Do Not Drink”, or replaced with a certified lead-free fixture.
  • Confirmation Samples – samples collected after mitigation steps have been completed, and used to confirm that mitigation was successful. If Confirmation Sample results are elevated, fixtures remain out of service until mitigation actions succeed.


Additional Information: 

Drinking Water Management Plan