What Are Boil Water Notices and Why Do We Issue Them?


Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) customers enjoy one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world. So a notice to boil tap water may seem like a needless inconvenience.

Typically, water service can be interrupted for any number of reasons, most commonly while repairs are made to a water main following a break, or in the course of scheduled maintenance and repair work.

During tropical storms or hurricanes when many uprooted trees cause hundreds of broken water and sewer lines, water service may be shut off system-wide and so, boil water notices are often issued, until mains can be repaired and system pressures are restored.

It may seem that this is an added cost in manpower, time, and materials to the utilities, and certainly an inconvenience to those water users affected. However, we believe that these types of safeguards are in place to protect our customers, and are therefore worth the added time and cost to the ECUA.

Why is the issuance of a boil water notice required? When breaks or changes occur in water lines, if the normal pressure in the line is lost, the possibility exists for contaminants to enter that line. The odds of this happening are extremely remote, but to be extra cautious, precautionary boil water notices are placed in effect while routine bacteriological sampling is conducted. Usually, two separate sets of samples are taken (again to be extra cautious), each needing 24 hours to be considered complete. When both sets of samples come back "clean", the precautionary boil water notice is lifted. These advisories only affect water that is intended for drinking or cooking.

We use a variety of methods to communicate boil water notices to our customers. They include delivering fliers door-to-door, distribute the timely information on radio and television, th euse of a telephone alert call-out system, and updated information and the affected areas will be immediately posted on the ECUA website.

Look for the Boil Water icon located in the blue box on the main page. And be sure to monitor this page for updates during boil-water notices.

Please call us at 850-476-0480 if you have questions or concerns.   The Escambia County Health Department can also assist with answers to your questions.  Call the Environmental Health division at (850) 595-6700 for assistance.

What Should You Do?

How to purify water- When a  precautionary boil water notice is issued you’ll want to have a safe and adequate drinking water supply in your home until service can be restored. To do this you’ll need to purify the water by using one of several methods:


Boil vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes and let cool.

Hypochlorite Bleach

Use regular liquid bleach from the home laundry or grocery store.
DO NOT use a bleach that has a fragrance or scent.
Read the label to find the percentage of chlorine available. It should be 5.25%.
Add 6 drops to a gallon of water and let stand at least 30 minutes.
If the water has a strong chlorine smell after 30 minutes, pour back and forth between two clean jugs or containers until the smell has dissipated.

Purification Tablets

These can be purchased from a drug store.  Keep them with your hurricane supplies and use according to directions on the package.

How To Store Purified Water

To keep drinking water safe from contamination, it should be stored in clean, non-corrosive, tightly covered containers.

Prepare three gallons of water per day for each family member and any family pets.

To increase shelf life of water, group bottles in dark plastic trash bags to keep light out.   Store containers in a cool, dark location.

CAUTION: Make sure children don't mistake bottles containing hazardous substances with bottles used for drinking water.

Hurricane Preparation Tips

During and after a hurricane, the water supply to your home may be temporarily interrupted for a short period of time.  To ensure your household has a safe and adequate water supply after natural disasters, take these precautions:

Store enough drinking water for each family member and pet
Store in clean, non-corrosive, tightly covered containers.
Store containers in a cool, dark location.
Collect water in bathtubs for non-drinking uses.
Get more information on hurricane preparedness by visiting www.BeReadyEscambia.com.

If you live in an evacuation zone and plan on leaving your home until after the storm has passed, you can further protect the water supply going into your home and minimize property damage by following the guidelines shown below:
How To Protect Your Hot Water Heater:

Turn off your water at the cut-off valve.
Switch off the electrical circuit breakers to your electric water heater.
Contact your natural gas provider for recommendations on steps to take to secure your natural gas water heater.

How To Turn Off Your Water:

Your water can be shut off at either the cut-off valve or at the water meter.  Everyone in your home should know where these are located.  The valve, which may have a wheel type handle, is normally under the water faucet outside (usually in the front of the house or by the garage door), 18 inches below the ground and 2 feet from the house, in line with your water meter.  Some valves are located directly behind your property line near the street.  The valve can be operated to provide water, if available, for sanitary services only on or after thorough disinfection following approved Health Department guidelines.