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Water Supply Emergency

 

Customer guide on what to do before, during and after a Water Supply Emergency

 

With its many uses for drinking, recreation, sanitation, hygiene, and industry, water is our most precious global resource. Clean and safe drinking water is critical to sustain human life and without it waterborne illness can be a serious problem. Water, which is necessary for recreational water activities like swimming, also helps promote healthy living. Often, water's vital role is most apparent during an emergency or disaster.

 

Individuals, families, and businesses are advised to be prepared for emergencies by creating emergency/disaster supply kits that include appropriate amounts of safe drinking water and develop an appropriate Emergency Water Supply Plan before a water outage or supply emergency to ensure the safety of their families, employees, and clients. Critical facilities such as schools, child day care establishments, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, dialysis centers, hospitals or other health care centers, or food establishments should take extra precautions. For information on how much water you think you will need and tips on how you can store it you can visit the Ready.gov website for more information.

 

If during a hurricane, tropical storm or unforeseen emergency, our water system loses power and water pressure, we will issue a Precautionary Boil Water Notice to our customers. A Precautionary Boil Water Notice is a public health announcement that the public should boil tap water before drinking it. When issued, the public should assume the water is unsafe to drink.

 

Resources:

 

Boil Water Notices


If during a hurricane, tropical storm or unforeseen emergency, our water system loses power and water pressure, we will issue a Precautionary Boil Water Notice to our customers. A Precautionary Boil Water Notice is a public health announcement that the public should boil tap water before drinking it. When issued, the public should assume the water is unsafe to drink.

Water pressure keeps pollutants from entering the underground pipes that bring drinking water to your house or business. When the pressure is lost, contaminants can seep into the pipes. This might allow pathogens (disease-causing germs) into the water that can cause illness if you drink it or prepare food or beverages with it.

 

During a Precautionary Boil Water Notice it is very imperative that you bring your water to a rolling boil for at least one minute in order to ensure the safety for you and your family. Boiled water should be used for drinking, preparing food, and brushing teeth. Household dishwashers are generally safe to use if the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150°F or if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle.

 

After the boil water notice is lifted, flush the water out of your distribution lines. Start with an outdoor faucet furthest from your meter and flush all outdoor faucets. Run hot water through each indoor faucet until you notice a change in water temperature. Remove the aerator before flushing kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. Run enough hot water to flush the hot water heater. If you have an automatic ice maker, empty the ice tray several times to ensure that the line to the ice maker is flushed. More information is available in online fact sheets produced by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

 

Important note about Tampa's WaterPlease Note: The City of Tampa provides drinking water to several other local utilities and communities (consecutive water systems). In the event we should issue a Precautionary Boil Water Notice for all of our own directly-served customers, customers served by these consecutive water systems should contact their utility directly to determine if the emergency/event impacts them. The City of Tampa can not issue a boil water notice or advisory for other utilities or advise the public on the extent of any water quality concerns for other utilities. See a map of the Tampa Water Department's direct service area and consecutive water systems.


Learn how you can prepare for possible Precautionary Boil Water Notices: Precautionary Boil Water Notice - What Should You Do? Adobe PDF file
 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
It is a notification that advises customers to boil tap water used for drinking or cooking until tests verify the water is safe. It is put out in order to encourage our customers to boil their water due to a disruption in the system that could possibly allow for the contamination of water. A Precautionary Boil Water Notice does not mean that the water is contaminated but because the quality of the water is unknown, customers should take precautions and assume that the water is unsafe for drinking.

 

These notices are usually issued because of a required shutdown of our water distribution system due to scheduled maintenance or an emergency repair. Shutting down the system can cause a loss of water pressure that could allow contaminants to enter. We issue boil water notices as a precaution even when contamination is unlikely. We recommend that our customers subscribe to the City's Alert Tampa emergency notification system to receive wide-spread boil water notifications and other important information.

During the notice, boiled water should be used for any activity that may result in ingestion or contact with mucus membranes or broken skin. Consumption includes brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, and homemade ice. Tap water may be used for showering, baths, shaving and washing, so long as care is taken not to swallow or allow water in eyes or nose or mouth. Children and disabled individuals should have their bath supervised to ensure water is not ingested. The time spent bathing should be minimized. Though the risk of illness is minimal, individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immuno-suppressed, or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or boiled water for cleansing until the notice is lifted. Individuals may wish to contact a health care provider for specific recommendations.
 

Businesses and other non-residential sites should take steps such as posting notices at or disabling water fountains and ice machines during the notice. If you provide water to visitors or employees, use commercially produced bottled water for drinking or beverage preparation (coffee). Food service operations have additional requirements from their regulatory agency.

Why do these conditions call for boiling water?
Water pressure keeps pollutants from entering the underground pipes that bring drinking water to your house or business. When the pressure is lost, contaminants can seep into the pipes. This might allow pathogens (disease-causing germs) into the water that can cause illness if one drinks it or prepares food or beverages with it. The risk is higher for infants, the elderly and persons with immune deficiency disorders. So, as a precaution, it is important to disinfect tap water to kill any bacteria or viruses that may have entered the water, or use an alternative source of water (bottled water). The Tampa Water Department issues Precautionary 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. We recommend that our customers subscribe to the City's Alert Tampa emergency notification system to receive wide-spread boil water notifications and other important information.

What does boiling water accomplish?
Boiling is considered the safest and most effective method of water disinfection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have indicated that a rolling boil for a period of one minute is sufficient to render drinking water microbiologically safe, free of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. 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.

The CDC has additional information on treating and storing drinking water during water-related emergencies available online at www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/safe_water/personal.html.

How does the Tampa Water Department inform customers about boil water notices?
We typically hand deliver Precautionary Boil Water Notices door-to-door to the affected area. We also notify the local health department and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) with every occurrence. The same method is used to notify customers that the notice has ended. Specific questions regarding a notice can be directed to the contact number on the notice or the Tampa Water Department Emergency Repair and Service Section at (813) 274-7400.

Should a large-scale or system-wide Precautionary Boil Water Notice be necessary, in addition to enlisting the assistance of the local media to alert the community, we use the City's Alert Tampa emergency notification system and recommend our customers subscribe to receive wide-spread boil water notifications and other important information.

What does the Tampa Water Department do during a boil water notice?
After the water system is repaired, and the pressure is restored in the pipes to your home or business, the Precautionary Boil Water Notice will remain in effect for one to several days while bacteria tests are conducted to assure the safety of the water. The notice will be lifted (rescinded) only after tests prove the water is safe to drink.
 

What should I do if I already drank the water before knowing about the Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
Should you accidentally consume water during a precautionary boil water notice without boiling it first, chances are you will be okay as long as you are in good health. Most people who happen to drink this water will not get sick. If you do get sick, the symptoms are similar to food poisoning: nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and possibly a mild fever. However, that does not mean it is safe for you to continue to use the water without boiling it first. Symptoms caused by bacteria in water related illnesses include but are not limited to diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and headaches. Should any of these symptoms occur you should seek medical advice immediately.

If there is a filter on my kitchen faucet and/or one in my refrigerator, is that water safe to drink?
The water filters that are attached to the kitchen faucet or placed in the refrigerator are there in order to improve the aesthetic aspects of water quality such as, order and taste, not to remove harmful pathogens such as bacteria. You should boil your water or use bottled water whenever a Precautionary Boil Water Notice is issued.

Is it safe to shower during a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
It is safe to shower as long as you take care not to swallow the water or get it into your eyes, nose, or mouth. Children and disabled individuals should have their bath supervised to ensure water is not ingested. The time spent bathing should be minimized. Though the risk of illness is minimal, individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immuno-suppressed, or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or boiled water for cleansing until the notice is lifted. Individuals may wish to contact a health care provider for specific recommendations.

Is it safe for my pets to drink the water during a Precautionary Boil Water Notice?
You should take the same precautions with your pet as you would for yourself. Pets should be given boiled or bottled water. In cases of aquatic pets, such as fish, you should not try to change their water while a precautionary boil water notice is in effect.

 

Additional Websites

 


(page last reviewed: 11/22/13)

 

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