In late 2014, a gastroenteritis outbreak occurred in a school in Shandong Province, eastern China. Hundreds of individuals developed the symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting. Epidemiological investigation showed that food consumption was not linked to this outbreak, and unboiled direct drinking water was identified as the independent risk factor with a relative risk of 1·37 (95% confidence interval 1·03–1·83). Furthermore, examination of common bacterial and viral gastroenteritis pathogens was conducted on different specimens. Norovirus GI.1, GI.2, GI.6, GII.4, GII.6 and GII.13 were detected in clinical specimens and a water sample. GII.4 sequences between clinical specimens and the water sample displayed a close relationship and belonged to GII.4 variant Sydney 2012. These results indicate that direct drinking water contaminated by norovirus was responsible for this gastroenteritis outbreak. This study enriches our knowledge of waterborne norovirus outbreaks in China, and presents valuable prevention and control practices for policy-makers. In future, strengthened surveillance and supervision of direct drinking-water systems is needed.