Ensuring the Quality of Vending Machine Water

DATE: October 13, 1998 
TO: Board of Supervisors 
SUBJECT: ENSURING THE QUALITY OF VENDING MACHINE WATER

SUMMARY: 
Overview:
The County of Los Angeles has recently conducted a study on the quality of water dispensed from water vending machines. The study showed that ninety-three percent of the water tested had bacteria levels 163 times higher than domestic tap water. As a result of their findings, they have decided to develop a County-wide monitoring program for water vending machines operated within their jurisdiction. Approval of this Board letter will enable County staff to determine whether there is a need to develop a monitoring program for San Diego County.

Recommendation:
SUPERVISOR JACOB 
Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to test the quality of water dispensed from vending machines located in the County of San Diego and to report back to the Board of Supervisors in 120 days with the results.

Fiscal Impact:
If approved, this request will result in no additional costs or staff years.

BACKGROUND
Many consumers take for granted that the water they purchase from area vending machines is at least safe if not superior than the quality of the tap water available in their homes. It has recently been brought to my attention, however, that the State of California, which has the jurisdiction to monitor water dispensed through vending machines, does not routinely test the quality of water purchased at water vending machines. Los Angeles County officials have requested authority from the State of California to implement their own monitoring program in Los Angeles County. If the State does not grant them the authority to conduct the tests, Los Angeles County plans to seek State legislation which would give them the authority to implement their own water testing program.

According to a study conducted over the past year by Los Angeles County officials, ninety-three percent of the water obtained from vending machines had bacteria levels 163 times higher than domestic tap water. Sixty-two percent of the machines they tested which claim to dispense "purified" water contained dissolved solids exceeding the State limit. Thirty-eight percent of the "purified" water vending machines also failed to remove common organic compounds as required by the State.

The County has not conducted any tests similar to those performed by Los Angeles County officials. Since San Diego consumers deserve to know about the quality of the water they purchase, County staff should assess the water dispensed from vending machines located within the County and determine whether there is a need to develop a monitoring program for San Diego.

I urge you to support this item which will help protect San Diego County consumers from unknown exposure to inferior water products which may adversely impact their health.

Respectfully Submitted,

DIANNE JACOB
Supervisor, Second District