When a flood happens in your area or water treatment infrastructure is damaged, your city or township may issue a boil water advisory. As the name implies, a boil water advisory means that people in the affected area should boil water before drinking it. But there are many other questions that citizens might have about a boil water advisory. Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about a boil water advisory.
What Does a Boil Water Advisory Mean? Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a boil water advisory and a boil water notice?
You may notice that your municipality might issue a boil water advisory or a boil water notice. During either of these events, you should boil water before consuming it. The differences between a boil water advisory and a boil water notice are small, but important. In a boil water advisory, the water source may be contaminated. In a boil water notice, the water is contaminated.
There are a few other phrases that your municipality might use, such as a precautionary notice and mandatory notice, or similar language. There are a few other phrases you might notice, and the distinction between these is important. If you’re not sure what you should do, contact your municipality or water treatment center.
- Boil water advisory: Before consuming any water from the local supply, you should boil it first, since it may be unsafe to consume.
- Boil water notice: Before consuming any water from the local supply, you should boil it first, since it is not safe to consume.
- Do not drink notice: Water from the local water source should not be consumed at all.
- Do not use notice: Water from the local water source should not be used for any reason, including laundry, dishes, or other uses.
What are some alternative water sources I can use during a boil water advisory?
During a boil water advisory, you may be understandably concerned about consuming the water in your area, even if you’ve boiled it. So, you might be looking for alternative water sources during a boil water advisory.
Though bottled water generally comes from tap water, it comes from other areas, so it will be safe to drink. Water from areas outside the boil water advisory may also be safe to drink, but it’s a good idea to check with the municipality first. Vended water from nearby areas might also be safe to drink, and more affordable than bottled water.
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How long should I boil water during a boil water advisory?
During a boil water advisory, you should boil water for at least a minute. This means the water should reach a rolling boil first, and then a minute must elapse. Without adequate boiling, bacteria may survive and make you sick. Before drinking the water, let it cool off. You can then store this water in a sealed container and drink it any time.
Can I do laundry during a boil water advisory?
Yes, it is safe to do laundry during a boil water advisory or a boil water notice. Getting the water on your clothes (and on your skin) is different than ingesting the water.
Remember, most of us can swim in water that we can’t safely drink from, such as rivers, lakes, ponds or oceans. Though this water would be unsafe to ingest without boiling, it generally doesn’t affect your skin unless it is more severely contaminated. In this case, your municipality will issue a “do not use” notice. During a “do not use” notice, the water should not be used for any reason.
If you’re concerned about bacteria on your clothes, you can also put your clothes in the dryer. In general, it’s the high heat of the dryer and not the soap of the washer that kills germs.
Can I wash dishes during a boil water advisory?
Yes, you can wash dishes during a boil water advisory, but it is also important to sanitize your dishes with bleach. After scrubbing, soaping and rinsing your dishes, soak them for 1 minute in a solution of 30ml (1 oz) of bleach mixed with 13.5 liters (3 gallons) of lukewarm water. The bleach will kill harmful bacteria, so your dishes will be safe to eat with.
Can I shower or bathe during a boil water advisory?
As long as you are careful not to ingest the water, it is safe to shower or bathe during a boil water advisory. As previously mentioned, many of us may swim in water that we wouldn’t otherwise drink, but we don’t get sick. If your water supply is so contaminated that it will irritate your skin, your municipality will issue a “do not use” notice.
Can I brush my teeth with the water during a boil water advisory?
No, you should not brush your teeth with tap water during a boil water advisory. If you rinse your toothbrush or your mouth with contaminated water, you may ingest the bacteria in the water. Use boiled water after it has cooled, or a bit of bottled water, or vended water from an uncontaminated water source.
Is filtered water safe to consume during a boil water advisory?
No, your at-home water filter will not safely remove bacteria and you should not consume water that has been filtered through your water filter alone.
What causes a water advisory?
There are many things that can cause a water advisory. Water advisories can be caused by storms such as hurricanes or heavy rainfall. Or, the water treatment infrastructure might be damaged or require repairs. In some cases, losses in water pressure can cause contaminated water to mix with clean water. Water pipes may leach harmful substances into the water supply. Industrial effluent might also introduce harmful substances into the water supply.
In hurricane situations, Twice the Ice has supplied water and ice vending machines to those in need. Ice and water vending machines can provide safe drinking water when residents have to relocate, but don’t have reliable access to tap water. This can also help to reduce the burden on emergency response efforts, and reduce the number of plastic bottles discarded.