Types of drinking water notices

A water supplier (e.g. council) may issue a boil waterdo not drink water,  or do not use water notice when there's a problem with the water supply to reduce the likelihood that anyone will get sick.  The notice should remain in place until the water supply is once again safe to drink or use normally. 

You can check if a water notice is in place where you are living or staying. If you’re on a council supply, the first place to check is the council’s website. Most councils also have social media, and some have opt-in text services to disseminate water notices. If you’re still unsure, contact your drinking water supplier.

If you’re not on council supply, you should be discussing water notices with your water supplier who has a duty to advise consumers when water is or may be unsafe.

Boil water notice

A boil water notice is an instruction, put in place by a water supplier when the drinking water supply contains, or could contain, bugs or microorganisms that could make you sick.

Boil water notices are put in place when E. coli is detected in the water or when the supplier has identified a risk of contamination such as a problem with the treatment system or damage to pipework.

When a boil water notice is in place all water for drinking, preparing food, brushing teeth, and preparing infant formula must be boiled (or have some other treatment) before use. 

Water for showering and laundry does not need to be boiled.

You should follow the instruction until you hear from your drinking water supplier that the boil water notice has been lifted and the water is safe to drink.

What to do when a boil water notice is lifted

  • Run all your cold taps for five minutes before using the water.
  • Flush any appliances (e.g. coffee machines, water dispensers, ice makers) that are connected to the water supply.
  • Hot water cylinders and header tanks may need to be drained and refilled – your drinking water supplier should provide some specific instructions at the time the notice is lifted. 
  • Water filters should be maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  You will also need to follow the advice of your drinking water supplier for any specific instructions. 

Find out more

Do not drink water notice

do not drink water notice is issued when the water supply is, or could be, contaminated with harmful chemicals and toxins. In this case boiling water will not make it safe.

Your water supplier may recommend limited use of tap water for some tasks, depending on the harmful chemical or toxin contaminating the water. Follow the information provided by your supplier carefully to protect your health and your family’s health.

During a do not drink water advisory, use bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, preparing food, mixing baby formula, making ice, giving water to pets. Your water supplier should provide further advice.

In some instances, it will be safe to wash hands, flush toilets and shower. In other instances, it will not be safe. You should be cautious when bathing babies and young children as they might swallow water.

Do not drink or use water from any appliance connected to your water supply lines. This includes the water and ice dispensers in your refrigerator, freezer and dishwasher.

Do not use notice

These types of notices are rare.

do not use water notice is issued when your community’s water is, or could be, contaminated in way that any contact, for example with the skin, lungs, or eyes, may be unsafe. Do not drink or use tap water from the impacted system for any purpose as long as the notice is in effect, including for bathing.