Guidelines for Notifying the Public of a Water Advisory

Once the decision to issue a drinking water advisory has been made, it is paramount to notify all users immediately. It is the responsibility of the owner of the drinking water system to notify the public, residents, businesses and institutions located in the area affected by the drinking water advisory, including other communities that share the affected water supply.

The notification must be done immediately and should be followed-up on a regular basis. Following the initial notification, users should be kept informed of the progress of a drinking water advisory.

The notification must clearly state the geographical area that is affected by the water advisory.

Clearly describe the boundaries of the affected area using street names, place names and other well known reference points.

The notification must also state:

  • The type of water advisory being issued:
    • boil water advisory
    • do not drink water advisory
    • do not use water advisory
  • Who is issuing the water advisory
  • The date that the water advisory is being issued
  • Why the water advisory is being issued
  • The duration of the water advisory. If the duration is unknown, state that it is in effect until further notice
  • What measures the public must take during the duration of the water advisory to avoid a possible illness
  • The possible symptoms caused by drinking contaminated water
  • Who is at increased risk of illness from contaminated water
  • What to do if someone experiences symptoms of illness from contaminated water
  • The corrective actions the municipality operating the drinking water system is taking
  • Where to go for more information (include a contact name, phone number, email address or mailing address, website, etc.)

On this site, you will find templates that you can use during a drinking water advisory. You can download, add your letterhead and adapt the sample documents to your needs. Be prepared to make/print sufficient copies of the appropriate template, and have a distribution plan for distributing and posting the water advisory as quickly as possible. Public communications can be coordinated with the local health unit.

The owner of the drinking water system may use one or more of the following methods to deliver the notice to the residents affected by the drinking water advisory. A combination of these may be necessary to inform all users:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Hand or direct delivery
  • People mailboxes
  • Verbal notification (door to door)
  • Posting in conspicuous locations
  • Newspaper
  • Delivery of multiple copies to hospitals, clinics and apartment buildings
  • Social media
  • Internet/website
  • Mass telephone notification
  • Signs on water taps at places where water is available to the public (e.g. gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, schools, arenas)

It is extremely important to notify the general public, workplaces, businesses, public buildings such as hospitals, personal care homes, schools, child care facilities, clinics, correctional facilities, food premises, hotels and tourism establishments, and healthcare providers and facilities.

When the situation is resolved and the drinking water advisory is lifted, the owner of the drinking water system must issue a notice to let people know that the water is safe for use and consumption.

The notification must state:

  • The geographical area affected by the notification
  • The type of water advisory being lifted:
    • boil water advisory
    • do not drink water advisory
    • do not use water advisory
  • Who is lifting the water advisory
  • The date that the water advisory is being lifted
  • Where to go for more information (include a contact name, phone number, email address or mailing address, website, etc.)

For more information about issuing and lifting drinking water advisories, contact the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario