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If you are in an area with a boil water order in place, it means that recent tests show that your water system is contaminated with organisms that can cause illness. Boiling is the best way to ensure water is free of illness-causing organisms. Bring the water to a rolling boil for one minute. When it cools, refrigerate the water in clean covered containers.

If you don't want to boil your water, you can disinfect the water using household bleach. Do not use bleach that contains perfume, dyes, or other additives. Use 1/4-teaspoon bleach per gallon of water, mix thoroughly, and then let stand for 60 minutes before using.

Alternatively, you can use purchased bottled water.

Anyone who drinks contaminated water may become ill. Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness. This includes people who are on chemotherapy, organ or bone marrow recipients, those with HIV or AIDS, malnourished children, infants, and some of the elderly with compromised or weakened immune systems.

If you do get sick, the symptoms are similar to food poisoning: diarrhea, stomach cramps, bloating, gas, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and/or fever. Symptoms may appear as early as a few hours to several days after infection and may last more than two weeks. If you are ill with these symptoms, contact your health care provider. The most important thing to do is avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine, such as soda, coffee, and tea.

Purpose
OK to use?
Drinking No
Ice cubes No
Brushing teeth No, use boiled (and cooled) or bottled water instead.
Baby's formula No
Washing vegetables/fruits No
Preparing food No
Coffee or tea No
Washing hands Yes. Vigorous hand washing with soap and your tap water is safe for basic personal hygiene. However, if you are washing your hands to prepare food, you should use boiled (then cooled) water, disinfected or bottled water with hand washing soap.
Showers/Baths Yes
Shaving Yes
Washing clothes/laundry Yes
Baby's bath Yes, as long as they do not drink any of the water. Don't let babies suck on washcloths.
Washing dishes Yes. You can use your dishwasher if you use the sanitizing/heat cycle and commercial dishwashing detergent. You can hand wash dishes if you rinse them in a diluted bleach solution—one teaspoon household bleach to one gallon of water—and then let dishes air dry.
Pet's water bowl No. Pets can get some of the same diseases as people. It is a good idea to give them boiled water that has been cooled otherwise contact your veterinarian for further advice based on your pet's medical history.
Fish and aquatic pets (e.g. reptiles and frogs) Most germs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. If your water system is using more chlorine or changing disinfection, be cautious about changing the water in your fish tank or aquarium. Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.
Garden and house plants Yes
Fixing the problem could be different in each situation depending on whether the problem is at the water source or in the water lines. Usually, the water lines will need to be flushed and the whole system will need to be disinfected using chlorine. The water will then be tested to make sure it is free of coliform bacteria.
A boil water health advisory will remain in effect until the water is tested and results show that it meets public health drinking water standards. Your water system will notify you when that occurs.

Most germs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. If your water system is using more chlorine or changing disinfection, be cautious about changing the water in your fish tank or aquarium. Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.

Flush household pipes/faucets first.

  • To flush your plumbing, run all your cold water faucets on full for at least 5 minutes each.
  • For a residence with multiple levels, start at the top of the house.
  • If your service connection is long or complex (like in an apartment building) consider flushing for a longer period. Your building superintendent or landlord should be able to advise you on longer flushing times.
  • If the water is discolored, continue to run it from the tap until it is clear.

Ice and automatic ice makers:

  • Wash and sanitize ice trays.
  • For an icemaker, dump existing ice and flush the water feed lines by making and discarding three batches of ice cubes.
  • Wipe down the ice bin with a disinfectant.
  • If your water feed line to the machine is longer than 20 feet, discard five batches of ice cubes.

Hot water heaters, water coolers, in-line filters, and other appliances with direct water connections or water tanks: 

  • Run enough water to completely replace at least one full volume of all lines and tanks.
  • If your filters are near the end of their life, replace them.
  • Follow any other instructions from the appliance manufacturer.

Water softeners:

  • Run through a regeneration cycle.
  • Follow any other instructions from the appliance manufacturer.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) units: Replace pre-filters, check owner's manual.

Replace other water filters, as they are disposable and may be contaminated. This applies especially to carbon filters and others that are near the end of their life.