You’ve just been issued a boil water advisory. You probably have a lot of questions running through your head. What is causing your water to be unsafe? How long has it been unsafe? What should you do now? What steps do you need to take to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones? These questions are all completely valid, and it is important that you find the answers to all of them. Let’s take a quick look at the steps you need to take after receiving a boil water advisory.

What does a boil water advisory mean?

A boil water advisory occurs when the Chief Public Health Officer has been alerted to a known contaminant or a risk of contamination within the local water supply. In most cases, this is a microbiological contamination, and boiling your water before consuming it will kill off any microbiological contaminants. The advisory is made under the Public Health Act and is designed to protect people’s health.

Step 1: listen to the advisory

If you’ve received a boil water advisory, the absolute first thing you need to do is stop using your water until you know exactly what you are dealing with. In some cases, you will just need to start boiling your water before you can use it, but you need to determine whether you need to boil it before you use it for cooking, or if you also need to boil your water before you use it to wash your hands or have a shower. Some contaminants can be absorbed through the skin, so it is important for you to understand the exact steps you need to take to keep yourself safe. Do some research into the public health advisory and follow up on any press releases so you can understand exactly what the contaminant in the water is and what steps are being taken to deal with it.

Step 2: boil your water

Your advisory should equip you with the proper instructions for how to proceed based on the type of contaminant you are dealing with, but in typical boil water cases, you will still be able to consume your tap water—you will just have to boil it first. That means boiling your water for at least one minute before either drinking it, using it for washing fruits and vegetables, or brushing your teeth with it. For the most part, you will still be able to bathe, but be sure to monitor babies and young children while in the bath to make sure they aren’t getting mouthfuls of water.

Do not rely on your water filtration system

One very important thing to remember is that your carbon filter, Brita filter, or the like is not designed to filter out microbiological contaminants. The only way to ensure the safety of your water is to boil it for at least one minute. You can store boiled water in a covered container in the refrigerator for later use as long as it does not come into contact with the contaminant again. If you would prefer to avoid your water altogether, you can choose to purchase commercially packaged water (bottled water) instead.

Do not put unboiled water into your coffee maker

Most coffee makers do not get hot enough to take your water to its boiling point for a full minute, so make sure you pre-boil the water you are using to make your coffee. Likewise, most dishwashers do not have a hot enough cycle, so be sure to soak your dishes in a bleach solution after washing them in the dishwasher (and rinse them in boiled water) to ensure you do not accidentally consume any contaminants.

Test your tap water

For the best line of defense, know what you are dealing with so you can determine for yourself how safe your tap water really is by ordering a water test and getting a fast, affordable water analysis. Click here to learn more.