Boil Water Notices

A boil water notice is used to safeguard health when the water supply may have been compromised.

You may be asked to boil your water during an emergency or operational failure:

  • at times of high turbidity in the source water (dirty water)
  • if tests show that harmful micro-organisms could be present in the water
  • if the water pressure drops due to equipment failure or power outages
  • because of a break or repairs on a water main
  • if the water source has been flooded or there is a significant inflow of stormwater
  • during situations that warrant special action to protect consumers health.

A boil water notice does not necessarily mean that tap water will make everyone seriously ill, but it does mean the water does not meet the New Zealand Drinking-water Standards. It is likely that there are harmful microorganisms (pathogens) in the water.


Current Boil Water Notices:

Pongaroa - Tuesday 18 June 2024

For the latest updates on these notices, please see our News page.


What should I do if a boil water notice is issued?

Until notified, residents will be advised to boil water before using it for:

  • drinking (including making of sachet juice/drinks);
  • making ice;
  • food preparation;
  • brushing teeth; and
  • preparing infant/toddler formula.

Electric jugs with a cut-off switch can be used as long as they are full – allow the water to come to the boil and wait for it to switch off (do not hold the switch down to increase the boiling time).  Water can also be placed in a clean metal pan and brought to a rolling boil for one minute. Boiled water should be covered and allowed to cool in the same container.

People with severely compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant women, and some elderly may be at increased risk. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. If you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor or Healthline 0800 611 116.

For more information, please refer to this useful Boil Water Advisory Factsheet published by Midcentral Health


What situation would cause a Boil Water Notice to be issued?

There are a number of reasons Council may issue a Boil Water Notice.  The three main reasons are as follows:

1. After a period of heavy rainfall the river flow is high and fast and has had the effect of what we term as "Turbidity".  In simple terms this is "dirty water" that is picked up from the riverbed and river bank.  When this happens water treatment plants struggle to reduce the turbidity for a period of time until the river flow settles down.

2. An incident occurred in which there is a slight chance of backflow or bacteria entering the  system, such as, low or no pressure or a water main break or a disruption in the water plant treatment.

3. When a microbiological contaminant is known to actually exist in the water in an amount that exceeds the allowable maximum contaminant level for drinking water standards.


I have already drank the water. Will I get sick?

Most people who happen to drink this water will not get sick. Babies, young children, the elderly and people who have compromised immune systems are more of risk of illness. If you get diarrhoea, vomiting and/or a fever, contact Healthline (0800 611 116) or your doctor.


Can I take a bath or shower?

Adults, teens and older children may shower or bathe with untreated water as long as no water is swallowed (avoid the face). Young children should be sponge-bathed instead of bathing in a tub because they are likely to swallow the bath water. If you have recent surgical wounds or a chronic illness, you may want to use bottled or boiled water for bathing until the advisory is lifted.


Can I use the water for handwashing?

If the boil water advisory has been issued as a precaution and there is no outbreak of human illness, vigorous handwashing using tap water and soap is sufficient. If the boil water advisory has been issued because of an outbreak, you should either:

  • Use bottled or boiled water for handwashing
  • Use soap and tap water followed by additional hand disinfection, by either:
    • rinsing hands in disinfectant solution (add 1 teaspoon plain household bleach to 10 litres of water and allow to stand for 30 minutes before use. Change solution frequently)
    • using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.

Wet wipes used for cleaning babies are not effective for disinfecting hands.


Will you provide water to schools?

We recommend sending your child to school with a drink bottle filled with cooled, boiled water. Most drinking fountains are linked to our supply so will be out of use during a boil water notice. We will assess supplying schools with water on a case by case situation.

If you are a school looking for clarification on this issue, please contact Council on 06 374 4080


What about my pets or livestock?

Pets and livestock can usually drink untreated water.


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.

Drinking Water Notice FAQs

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.

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 e.g. bleach) before use.

Water for showering, laundry, and other uses 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.

E. coli is a type of bacteria found in the intestines and faeces (poo) of people, other mammals and birds. In technical terms it’s a subgroup of the coliform group. E. coli is used as an indicator of bacterial risk. It’s presence in a drinking water sample, indicates recent faecal contamination (i.e. the presence of poo). That means it can be expected that micro-organisms including bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can cause illness, will be in the water. Boiling contaminated drinking water destroys all illness-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa that may be present.

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.

No.  Filtered water does not destroy bugs that can make people sick.  Filtered water should be treated by boiling or adding bleach before using it for drinking, preparing food, cooking, making up infant formula, handwashing and cleaning teeth.

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.

Coffee machines, soda machines and ice makers that are connected to the water supply should not be used.  Use boiled water, water treated with plain unscented bleach or commercially bottled water for making coffee, soda drinks or ice.

How to boil water to make it safe FAQs

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. Or boil the water in an electric jug until the jug turns off automatically.

Use boiled water for drinking, preparing food, cooking, making up infant formula, handwashing, and cleaning teeth.

Store the boiled water in a clean container with a lid. Boiled water is best used within 24 hours and can be boiled again to be sure it is safe. This is especially important for preparing infant formula.

Boiled water can taste a bit flat. To improve the taste, you can pour cooled water back and forth from one clean glass into another to add air to the water, let the water stand for a few hours, or add a pinch of salt to each litre of boiled water.  Chilling water in the fridge can also improve the taste.

Use of bleach to make water safe FAQs

You can add plain unscented bleach to your water (do not use Janola as it contains cleaning chemicals which make it unsuitable for treating drinking water). To disinfect the water add 5 drops of bleach to 1 litre of water or 1/2 teaspoon to 10 litres of water. Stir and leave the water to stand for 30 minutes before drinking.

Boiling water is the most effective way to disinfect water, as it will kill all disease-causing bugs.  If it is not possible to boil water, e.g. in a power outage, disinfecting the water by adding bleach is effective for killing most bugs.

Some water sourced from the ground and contains minerals. Some of these minerals can react with the bleach and change the colour to blue or black. While not hazardous, it is not aesthetically pleasing.

Bleach is a compound (mix) of chlorine known as sodium hypochlorite. Chlorine compounds are often added to drinking water to get rid of disease-causing bugs. The use of chlorine has been a major factor in reducing illness from waterborne diseases.

Any brand of plain unscented bleach is best.  It is not safe to use bleaches that contain added scent or perfume, surfactants (cleaning chemicals) or other additives as they can

If there are no alternatives available, use your bleach and double the dose.  You can double the dose with no adverse health effects.

To improve the taste, store your treated water in the fridge. Not only will the chilled water taste better, but it will also lose that chlorine smell. Keep the jug covered and preferably do not keep any water for more than 24 hours.

Use of Purification / Sterilisation tablets FAQ

If you are unable to boil your water or add bleach, purification tablets can be used to disinfect the water.  Follow manufacturer’s instructions for details on how much to use.

Drinking and feeding FAQs

You may choose to use bottled water if it’s available. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open it until you need to use it. Bottled water may be used for drinking, cooking, and hand washing with no further treatment.

Many manufacturers advise a two-year period for taste, but bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly. Store commercially bottled water at room temperature (or cooler), out of direct sunlight and away from solvents and chemicals such as petrol, paint thinners and dry-cleaning chemicals. If the water appears cloudy, then it should be treated (e.g. by boiling or adding bleach) before drinking.

Fruit and vegetables should be washed using cooled, boiled water, water treated with plain unscented bleach or commercially bottled water. In cooking, it’s safer to boil the water first to prevent the potential for inadequate heating.  Do not use ice, food or drinks that may have been made from contaminated tap water.

If breastfeeding, continue as usual. If you are using infant formula, prepare using commercially bottled or cooled, boiled water. Wash and sterilise bottles and teats in boiling water or use sterilisation tablets and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Using water for your garden, washing and personal hygiene FAQs

Vege gardens should be watered with treated water to prevent contaminating garden produce.

Dishes can be washed using boiled water and detergent. If you are unable to boil your water, dishes washed with contaminated tap water and detergent should be rinsed in bleach solution. (1/4 cup of plain unscented household bleach per 10 litres of water). Allow dishes to completely air dry.

Household dishwashers are generally safe to use if the water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 65°c or if the dishwasher has a sanitising cycle.

No, you can continue doing your laundry the way you usually do.

Adults and older children may shower or bathe with untreated water as long as no water is swallowed (avoid the face). Young children should be sponge-bathed instead of bathing in a tub because they are likely to swallow the bath water. If you have recent surgical wounds or a chronic illness, you may want to use bottled or boiled water for bathing until the notice is lifted.  You can use water from the hot water cylinder, header tank and toilet cistern (if no chemical toilet cleanser is present) to wash yourself.

Keeping hands clean during an emergency helps prevent the spread of bugs that can make people sick. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and either commercially bottled water, cooled boiled water or water that has been treated by adding unscented bleach. Wash your hands well. If water is in very short supply, keep some in a bowl with disinfectant added, but change frequently.

Only use commercially bottled water, water that has been boiled or water that has been treated by adding plain unscented bleach for brushing your teeth.

You can shave as usual using the tap water.

Pets and animal FAQs

Pets can usually drink untreated water.  If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.

Most bugs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. Be cautious about changing the water in your fish tank or aquarium if the water has different treatment (e.g. more chlorine being added or new treatment added). Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.

Livestock can usually drink untreated water.  If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.

What to do after the Boil Water Notice is lifted

  • It is recommended that you run all your cold taps for 5 minutes before using the water and flush any appliances (e.g coffee machines, water dispensers, ice makers) that are connected to the water supply. Hot water cylinders and water header tanks may need to be drained and refilled.
  • If you have been away while a boil water notice has been in place, run your taps for 15 minutes to clear old water from your lateral.
  • If you have water filters installed the filter must be maintained and replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions.

  • If you switched your tank supply off at the water toby during the Boil Water Notice period, the supply can be switched back on at the water toby.
  • If there is a lot of sediment at the bottom of the tank it can be siphoned off using a swimming pool vacuum cleaner. Tank cleaning contractors can be contacted to help.
  • Water tanks should ideally be inspected annually and cleaned if necessary. Tank cleaning should ideally be carried out by tank-cleaning contractors.
  • Cleaning should generally be limited to removing accumulated sediments, leaf litter, or other objects such as insects and animals that may have gained access to the tank.

You may wish to chlorinate the water in your tank. For a 20,000-litre tank, 660 ml of plain household bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite) with no perfume or surfactants will give you a chlorine residual of 1mg/l, which will provide good disinfection. Leave the water for at least 30 minutes for the chlorine to work and to mix around the tank.