When a boil water notice is in effect, consumers need to boil tap water before drinking, using for food preparation or cleaning. This is used when bacteria is present in the drinking water, or there is the potential for bacteria to be present in the drinking water.

What is the water contaminated with?

The water may contain bugs that can make people sick, for example causing vomiting or diarrhoea.  Our routine water quality tests look for E.coli which, if found, indicates that there are bugs (bacteria or protozoa such as cryptosporidium or giardia) in the water that could cause human illness. Boiling water kills all of these bugs.

How long do I need to boil the water for?

Boiling will kill all disease-causing organisms.

  • Place the water in a clean metal pan and bring the water to a rolling boil (where bubbles appear in the centre and do not disappear when the water is stirred) for one minute
  • Alternatively, boil an electric jug full of water until the switch turns off.
  • Cool water (do not use ice cubes to do this) and pour into clean container with a lid
  • Refrigerate until needed

What are the potential health risks from drinking water that hasn’t been boiled first?

There is a risk you could get sick from bugs in the water.  Babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of illness. If you get diarrhoea, vomiting and/or a fever get advice from your doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116).

I have a water filtration unit installed. Does this make the water safe?

No. Filtered water should also be boiled for one minute before using it for drinking, food preparation or brushing your teeth.

Can I use my coffee machine, soda machine or ice maker?

Machines that are connected to the water supply should not be used. Use boiled water or bottled water for making coffee, ice or soda drinks.

Can I use the shower and bath?

Yes you can, as long as you don’t swallow the water. Toddlers and infants should be sponge bathed to reduce the chance of them swallowing the water.

Can I still use the water for washing the dishes and doing the laundry?

Dishes can be washed using boiled water. If your dishwasher has a hot setting, it can be used to wash dishes. If it doesn’t have a hot setting, once it’s finished, rinse the dishes in a bleach solution afterwards (2 drops unscented household bleach per 1 litre of water). Allow the dishes to completely air dry. You can continue to do your laundry as you normally would.

Is it safe to wash my hands in the tap water?

Yes it is, as long as you follow a proper handwashing technique. This includes rubbing all parts of your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds and drying your hands.

What about teeth brushing and shaving?

Only use boiled or bottled water to brush your teeth. You can shave as usual using tap water.

How long will the boil water advisory be in place for?

The boil water advisory will remain in place until further notice.  We will advise when the water is again safe to drink without boiling.

What should I do about feeding my baby?

If breastfeeding, continue as usual. If you are using baby formula, prepare using bottled or cooled, boiled water. Wash and sterilise bottles and teats by boiling or microwaving.

What about my pets?

Pets can usually drink untreated water.

What should I do once the boil water advisory is lifted?

Run your cold taps for 5 minutes before using the tap water. Flush any appliances e.g. coffee machines, that are connected to the water supply. Hot water cylinders and header tanks may need to be drained and refilled.

What is protozoa?

Protozoa is a type of parasite. Common types of protozoa found in contaminated water are cryptosporidium and giardia. They can cause diarrhoea.

What is E.coli?

E.coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in the intestines (gut) of people and animals. Although some E.coli can cause illness, finding this bug in the water is a marker that there could be other bugs present in the water.  What these bugs are will depend on what has caused the contamination.  However, these bugs are likely to cause symptoms such as: stomach cramps, diarrhoea, gas, loss of appetite/nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle aches and fever. Symptoms can last from a few days to more than a week.

Will chlorine affect my health?

Studies indicate that drinking water with low concentrations of chlorine does not cause harmful health effects. Its widespread use has been a major factor in reducing illness from waterborne diseases.

If you feel your skin getting dry or ‘itchy’ use moisturiser after having a shower or bath. If you notice increased skin irritation, asthma symptoms or other symptoms – seek medical advice. Even with the small amounts of chlorine used, some people will notice the smell.

Can chlorine affect existing conditions?

Yes, in a small number of people chlorine can be an irritant for an existing condition such as asthma or eczema. If you notice increased skin irritation, asthma symptoms or other symptoms - seek medical advice.

You can contact Heathline 24/7 free on 0800 611 116 or your family doctor (GP).