Boil Water Notices - Basic Information for All Consumers

Q1 - Why are boil water notices issued for drinking water?

A boil water notice is issued to protect consumers when it is possible that drinking water has been contaminated by microorganisms that can cause illness (i.e. germs or pathogens). Common reasons for a boil water notice include loss of pressure in the water distribution system, loss of disinfection, and other water quality concerns caused by other events such as water line breaks, power outages and floods.

Q2 - How long will the need to boil water continue?

A boil water event typically lasts 24 to 48 hours, but it can be longer and may last several days. How long depends on what caused the need to boil, how quickly the problem can be corrected, and how long it takes for laboratory results to confirm your water is again ready to drink. Your water utility and your local Health Department office can answer questions on how long your boil water notice might last and advise you when you can return to normal water use.

Q3 - How do I boil my water so that it is safe to drink?

Bring water to a FULL ROLLING BOIL for 1 MINUTE, then allow the water to COOL BEFORE USE. Because water may take 30 minutes to cool, plan ahead. Make up a batch of boiled water in advance so you will not be tempted to use it hot and risk scalds or burns. Boiled water may be used for drinking, cooking, and washing.

Here's an easy way to remember...ROLL for ONE then COOL.

Q4 - What is an acceptable alternate source for safe drinking water?

Acceptable alternate sources for drinking water include:

  • Bottled water that is certified for sale in New York State
  • Water from another public water supply (one that is not under the boil water notice)
  • Water from a New York State (NYS) certified bulk water hauler
  • Water from a water tanker or water "buffalo" that is provided by your water utility or by emergency response agencies.

Roadside springs are not a sure source of safe drinking water. They are seldom monitored and no one is in charge of keeping them safe. If you must use roadside spring water for drinking or food preparation, we recommend that you boil (and then cool) it before use.

Q5 - Is it safe to use bottled water?

Bottled water that is certified for sale in New York State is a good alternate water source and may be used for drinking, cooking, and washing with no further treatment. Bottled water may be preferable when boiling is not possible or is inconvenient.

Q6- Is it safe to use water from a water tanker?

Water provided by a New York State certified bulk water hauler can be used for drinking, cooking, and washing with no further treatment. You may also rely on water from a tanker operated by your water utility or by an emergency response agency such as the NY State Office of Emergency Management. Depending on the boil water event, tankers may be set up as temporary water stations in your community where you can fill containers for home use.

If you arrange for bulk water on your own, you should ask the hauler to verify that:

  • the bulk hauler is certified in New York State (you can ask for their certification number)
  • the water to be delivered is from a source that is approved by the Health Department, or from another public water supply that is not under the boil water notice
  • water will be transported in a sanitized water tanker (certified haulers have standard procedures for this).

A list of New York State certified bulk water haulers can be obtained from NYS-Certified Bulk Water Facilities web page.

Q7 - What container should I use to obtain water from another location?

The container you use to get water from an alternate source or temporary water station can greatly affect your water. Never use a container that has ever held a chemical, gasoline or other fuel. Use only clean containers that you know are fit and that are free of all dirt and contaminants.

Q8 - Does my in-home water treatment system provide enough protection?

No! The Department of Health does not encourage residents to rely on home treatment units. It is recommended that you use boiled (and then cooled) water or an alternate source such as bottled water that is certified for sale in New York State.

Most in-home treatment devices are not designed to remove pathogens, and should not be relied on to protect you during a boil water event. Even treatment units that are designed to remove pathogens may not do so all the time unless they have been properly maintained. Common home treatment devices that have limited or no ability to remove pathogens include: carbon filters; water softeners and other ion exchange units; sediment filters; chlorine removers; and aerators.

More detailed information can be found in other fact sheets, such as those for residents and homeowners and food service establishments, that are available from the New York State Department of Health or from your local Health Department