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Pescadero HS begins another year of relying on bottled drinking water due to nitrates

Coastside school forced to rely on bottled drinking water
Coastside school forced to rely on bottled drinking water 02:08

PESCADERO – At Pescadero High School, no one takes clean drinking water for granted. That's because the high school itself and the district office next door has had to rely on bottled water for drinking and cooking for years.

"The water fountain has never been used," said English teacher Jennifer Freeman.

Freeman pointed to the sinks in the classrooms which carry a warning not to drink from the tap. In fact, all the water for students and staff to drink must be trucked in and it's been that way since 2015.

Jennifer Freeman, a teacher at Pescadero High School, shows a water fountain that has not been in use since 2015 due to nitrates in the water. CBS

"Through our regular testing program, we discovered nitrates in the water, which have persisted to this date," Superintendent Amy Wooliever told KPIX 5.

Wooliever showed KPIX 5 the school's tainted well. Pumps still bring the water to the surface, which is stored in a large tank.

But the water is now only used things like flushing or cleaning. In the kitchen, only bottled water can be used for cooking.

The nitrates could be coming from the runoff of fertilized soil or other ag-related sources.

"We're definitely in an ag area, we're right in the middle of fields, that could be a part of it. We also have a creek running nearby, so there could be many sources," Wooliever said.

This year, California's "Drinking Water Needs Assessment" found nearly 90 water providers throughout the state have had to rely on importing bottled water to meet their community's drinking water needs.

Although the drought is not a factor in Pescadero, it is straining the supply of clean drinking water in many rural communities.

The school district says plans are in the works to hook up to the municipal water supply, which uses water from clean aquifers in the mountains.

In the meantime, it's bottled water for students and staff when classes resume next week.

"It was inconvenient before but now we have the water stations set up, it's more practical. I don't have to worry about how much water I have to bring from home," Freeman said.

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