Windstorms and other weather events can compromise the ability of water systems to deliver safe and reliable drinking water to their customers. On this page you will find resources and guidance on ensuring safe drinking water, including:
Information for public water systems operators and owners
If your system has been significantly impacted by windstorms or other weather events, you must notify your customers that the water might not be safe to drink. Common impacts to water systems include:
- Loss of pressure
- Power outages
- High or unusual water demand
- Damage to infrastructure, and
- Treatment failure
The unique issues your water system may face will determine whether a “Boil Water” or “Do Not Drink” advisory is appropriate. We have attached public notification templates for your use. Complete and modify to meet your needs.
You must issue a health advisory if your water system loses pressure or has been affected in a way that might have a negative impact on water quality and public health. The health advisory must remain in effect until water sample results confirm the water is safe to drink.
- “Boil Water” public notification (Word): Ideal for situations including pressure loss, loss of required chlorination and biological contamination of your system. This is the most likely scenario for the small, rural water systems that are most likely to be impacted by windstorms.
- “Do Not Drink” public notification (Word): Ideal for situations including loss of nitrate treatment or chemical contamination of your system.
If you issue a health advisory, notify your DOH regional engineer or the DOH regional office. Your regional office will provide guidance regarding sampling or other steps that need to be taken in order to lift the health advisory.
Eastern Region: 509-329-2100
Northwest Region: 253-395-6750
Southwest Region: 360-236-3030
After Hours Toll Free Hotline 1-877-481-4901
- Backflow Incident (Q&A) (PDF, DOH 331-494) (Note: You can use the Drinking Water Warning: Backflow Incident Form (Word) for public notification)
- Pressure-Loss Events (Q&A) (PDF, DOH 331-338) (Note: You can use the Drinking Water Warning: Loss of Pressure Form (Word) for public notification)
Guidance for private well users
If your system has lost power, your water may not be safe to drink. Power losses can cause backflows, water treatment equipment failures, and other problems. Unless your well has high nitrate levels, boil your tap water to kill germs (boiling will only concentrate nitrate) until you can get it tested. Heat to a brisk boil for one minute and allow the water to cool.
Here are things to look for after a windstorm or other weather event:
- Damage to electrical wires and connectors that supply power to your well.
- Damage to above-ground PVC pipes used with the well to bring water to your home.
- Damage to well houses and equipment, such as chlorinators, filters and electronic controls.
- Damage to pressure tanks.
- Damage to storage tanks, vents and overflow pipes.
If you find any damage, contact a licensed contractor or trade worker to repair the damage.
Collect water samples and have a professional water lab (PDF) analyze the quality of your water. At a minimum, you should test for coliform bacteria. Read more about coliform bacteria here (PDF). If you suspect chemical or other contamination of your well, ask your lab about other tests they can run.
If you were away from home and are unsure of conditions, contact your local health department. This guidance document may be helpful (PDF).