What Is a Boil Water Advisory?

Chris Knippa
Written by Chris Knippa
Updated October 12, 2015
bottled water
During a boil water advisory, use bottled water for consumption purposes and brushing your teeth. (Photo courtesy of Kinetico San Antonio)

You heard it on the news — boil your water.

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Government agencies or health institutions issue boil water advisories when a community water supply could be contaminated by bacteria. Common causes include low or loss of water pressure, turbidity, bacteria, natural disaster and vandalism. 

What Should I Do During a Boil Water Advisory?

Let water boil for one minute after reaching a rolling boil. Then, turn off the heat source and let the water cool.

During a boil water notice, stick to an alternative water source, such as bottled water, for drinking and brushing your teeth. Avoid using coffee makers, ice machines and any other appliances that use the water supply that is under advisory. While washing your hands and bathing are considered OK, avoid getting water in your mouth.

Pets can get some of the same diseases as humans, so make sure to fill their bowls with water that has been boiled and cooled. 

What If I Don’t Have Power?

When an event that triggers a boil water advisory occurs, boiling water is considered the best way to treat your water for the duration of the event. However, in the absence of power, you can disinfect the water with bleach. If the tap water is clear, add one-eighth of a teaspoon of unscented bleach to a gallon of water. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes.

Filter cloudy water using a clean cloth before adding a quarter teaspoon of bleach into a gallon of water.

During a boil water notice, it's best to listen to the public health authorities issuing the notice and to follow suit accordingly. 

Can a Reverse Osmosis System Protect My Well Water?

Reverse osmosis water purification systems remove the majority of contaminants and include specialty filters that address specific concerns. If you are considering using reverse osmosis as a safety precaution, consult with an equipment technician. However, you should always adhere to boil water notices.

As of Oct. 12, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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