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Drinking Water Safety


Storms, especially if accompanied by a tidal surge or flooding, can contaminate the public water supply. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. Individuals cannot assume that the water in the storm-affected area is safe to drink.

  • Flood waters contain disease causing microorganisms. If water treatment plants are affected by flood waters, residents should heed instructions from local authorities to boil their water before drinking it and for use in preparing meals. People should not use any ice that is made with potentially contaminated water. Restoring water service could take some time in some areas.
  • Residents who are placed under a boil water notice should boil water at a rolling boil for one minute. This will kill any disease-causing microorganisms present in the water. The “flat” taste of boiled water can be improved by pouring it back and forth from one clean container into another (aeration), by allowing it to stand for a few hours, or by adding a pinch of salt for each quart of water boiled. Drinking bottled water is also an option for people whose water is contaminated.
  • If you can’t boil water, add 6 drops of recently purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of clear water (double the number of drops for cloudy water), stir it well, and then let the water stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You also can use water-purifying tablets from your local pharmacy or sporting goods store. Note that using bleach or tablets may not kill some disease causing microorganisms.
  • People with compromised immune systems, including those who are on chemotherapy or are HIV positive, and living in the affected areas should be extremely cautious and consume only commercial bottled water.
  • In the event of flooding near a private well, assume that the well water is contaminated until it can be tested for safety.

Last Updated: 07-30-2011

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