Frequently Asked Questions During a Boil Water Advisory
A Boil Water Advisory is a recommendation made by the Chief Public Health Officer of the NWT for residents to boil tap water for at least one minute before drinking it, using it for washing fruits and vegetables, or using it for brushing teeth. A Boil Water Advisory is made to protect people’s health.
The Chief Public Health Officer issues a Boil Water Advisory whenever there is known microbiological contamination in the water supply OR if there is a risk that contamination may be present in the water supply. Advisories are made under the Public Health Act.
You can drink tap water during a Boil Water Advisory as long as it has been boiled for at least one minute. You can cool and store boiled water in a covered container for later use. If you do not want to boil your water, you may choose to buy commercially packaged water, such as bottled water.
Once the water has been boiled, you can cover it and put it in the refrigerator for later use. As long as the water is protected from contamination, it will stay safe to drink.
You can continue to use tap water for bathing, showering, washing dishes and clothes during a Boil Water Advisory, as long as you take precautions that no one drinks it. Toddlers and young children are most at risk of accidental ingestion during bathing, so need to be watched carefully.
If your dishwasher has a hot/sani-cycle, then it can be used during a Boil Water Advisory because it will still safely disinfect dishes. If it does not have this setting, you will need to soak dishes for 1 minute in a solution of 30ml (1 oz) of bleach mixed with 13.5 liters (3 gallons) of lukewarm water after taking them out of the dishwasher. Let dishes air dry.
Most coffee makers cannot maintain high temperatures for a long enough time to make the water safe to drink. Coffee can be made by using water that has already been boiled for one minute before adding to the coffee maker or made using bottled water. If you are using an automatic shut-off kettle, make sure the water has boiled for one minute before you use it.
Can I use my activated charcoal filter system (i.e. Brita or other brand names) to treat my water during a Boil Water Advisory?
No, these filters are not designed to remove microbiological contamination from an unsafe water supply. If you ran run water through your filter during a Boil Water Advisory, the filter can also get contaminated. It is recommended that you throw away the filter and replace it with a new one once the Boil Water Advisory is over.
You should sterilize all bottles, rings, utensils and nipples in boiling water for two minutes. You should boil water at a rolling boil for 2 minutes to sterilize it before mixing it with formula for your baby.
Pets should also drink boiled water or water from a different source (such as bottled water) until the Boil Water Advisory is lifted.
No, the colour of the water should not affect its safety, as long as it has been boiled for one minute.
If you receive trucked water, you should follow the same recommendations during a Boil Water Advisory (i.e. boil the water for one minute before use). Once the advisory is lifted, make sure to clean your water tank. For information on how to clean your water tank, refer to the Drinking Water Quality page of the Health and Social Services website.
When there is a Boil Water Advisory, restaurants are given very specific orders from Environmental Health Officers (who report to the Chief Public Health Officer) about how to operate. These orders ensure that foods and drinks served to the public remain safe.
Restaurants can serve fountain drinks IF they use one of the following approved processing methods:
- Reverse osmosis
- Filtering using a filter size of 1 micron absolute or less
Schools and school boards have procedures and plans in place if there is a Boil Water Advisory. They will decide whether or not to stay open based on the needs of their staff and students, as well as the information that is provided in the Boil Water Advisory.
Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of water. It is caused by naturally occurring organic matter and dirt (silt and sand) that gets mixed in with the water. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.
A precautionary Boil Water Advisory is issued when water may be unsafe but no illnesses or samples have detected presence of bacteria in the water. For example, high turbidity (which is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness) in water can interfere with the disinfection process of the drinking water to a point where it can no longer be assured.