Public Notification

If the drinking water supply becomes contaminated, many people can become seriously ill or die. Therefore, state and federal laws require water systems to notify their customers any time a problem with drinking water poses a health risk. Notifying customers - as soon as possible - when their water may not be safe to drink, gives them time to protect themselves and their families.

Public Notification Rules apply to all Group A public water systems. Group A systems have 15 or more service connections or serve 25 or more people per day for 60 or more days per year.

We provide technical assistance for water systems (see below).

Timing and distribution requirements

Public notification timing and distribution requirements depend on the level of threat associated with the violation or event.

  • Tier 1: Acute health concerns require notification within 24 hours. (See Emergency Publications for Water Systems.)
  • Tier 2: Chronic health concerns require notification within 30 days.
  • Tier 3: Reporting and monitoring violations require notification.

Group A public water systems must notify their customers whenever they:

  • Violate drinking water quality or monitoring requirements.
  • Operate under a variance or exemption.
  • Have any situation that poses a public health risk, such as a disruption in service.
  • Receive an order from ODW.
  • Fail to comply with an ODW order.
  • Receive a red operating permit.

Public notification rules

Public notification rules, including the following, are in Group A Public Water Supplies: Chapter 246-290 WAC (DOH 331-010). See Part 7, Reporting, Subpart A.

  • A list of violations and situations that require 24-hour notification.
  • Simplified health effects language.
  • Standard language for monitoring violations.

Water systems may combine notices for individual violations into their annual Consumer Confidence Reports, as long as they meet the public notification timing requirements.

More Resources

Technical assistance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed a Public Notification Handbook (816-R-09-013) with sample public notices.

Call the nearest ODW Regional Office for technical assistance. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you have an after-hours emergency, call (877) 481-4901.

Eastern Region, Spokane Valley 509-329-2100

Northwest Region, Kent 253-395-6750

Southwest Region, Tumwater 360-236-3030