The United States enjoys one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world. So a notice to boil tap water may seem like a needless inconvenience.
Why do drinking water suppliers such as LCRA issue boil-water notices? Most are related to the occasional equipment malfunctions and pipeline breaks that increase the risk of contaminants entering the drinking water treatment and distribution system. When problems arise, as they do with all water supply systems, LCRA goes beyond the requirements of law to protect public health. We issue boil-water notices as a precaution even when contamination is unlikely.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about boil-water notices and drinking water contamination:
What does boiling water accomplish?
Boiling is considered the safest and most effective method of water disinfection. Vigorous boiling for two minutes will kill any disease-causing microorganisms and parasites present in water. The flat taste of boiled water can be improved by aeration: pouring it back and forth from one container to another. In lieu of boiling, you may purchase bottled water or get water from another suitable source.
When should I boil my tap water?
It's prudent to boil water when your water supplier issues a boil-water notice, when service has been interrupted, or when a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane has disrupted water service.
What is a boil-water notice?
It is a notification that advises customers to boil tap water used for drinking, cooking and ice-making until tests verify the water is safe. The tests generally take 24 hours to complete. It is not necessary to boil water for showering or other external uses.
When are boil-water notices issued?
Water suppliers are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to notify customers to boil water when water samples indicate contamination or when conditions exist that make the water supply vulnerable to contamination. These conditions include a drop in system pressure to below 20 pounds per square inch, a break in a major distribution line, a malfunction of the treatment system, or a cross-connection to a contaminated water supply.
Why do these conditions call for boiling water?
When service is interrupted and distribution lines are emptied, contaminants can enter the lines that transport water. Although waterborne diseases are extremely rare, they can be serious. The risk is higher for infants, the elderly and persons with immune deficiency disorders. LCRA issues boil-water notices even if the possibility of contamination is remote because we do not want to take any chances with your family's health.
How does LCRA inform customers about boil-water notices?
We use a variety of methods to communicate. They include delivering fliers door-to-door and making personal calls to water users such as day care centers, nursing homes and restaurants. The same methods are used to notify customers that the notice has ended. Be sure to monitor this page for updates during boil-water notices.