Water Quality and Boil Water Advisories

A Boil Water Advisory (BWA) is issued as a precautionary measure when the water in a community's potable water system has the potential or is known to have disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause waterborne illness; or when water quality is questionable and boiling will remove contaminants from the water.

BWAs are more common in smaller water systems that rely on a single or limited number of fresh water sources, such as a well or reservoir. Here in British Columbia they are typically issued for two reasons:

Naturally Occurring Fluctuations in Water Quality

natural resourcesWater of course is a naturally occurring substance we collect and treat as needed for human consumption. As such, water quality can vary depending on natural fluctuations to supply and quality. Spring run-off can affect water quality because of higher volumes, just as late summer and fall water quality is often affected by lower volumes. Each of these can cause the appearance, or increased concentrations, of water-borne contaminants. Often these are more aesthetic – water discolouration and/or taste –  than an actual health concern. At Bluestem Utilities we always err on the side of caution.

Water System Maintenance

Water systems require regular maintenance to ensure their safety and reliability. Whenever a system is depressurized or opened, it creates the potential for external contaminants to enter the system, or for sediments already in the system to be stirred up. It’s the same as when your householder water system is turned off and on, and your taps splutter dirty water for the first couple minutes of running.

Precautions During a Boil Water Advisory

bwa kettleDuring a Boil Water Advisory, tap water used for the following purposes should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one (1) minute prior to use.

  • Drinking and ice cubes
  • Liquids or food (e.g. tea or soup) that will not be boiled for at least one (1) minute
  • Washing fruits and vegetables being eaten raw
  • Brushing teeth or cleaning dental and medical appliances
  • Preparing baby food and infant formula
  • Bathing infants

Adults, adolescents, and older children may shower, bathe, or wash using tap water, but should avoid swallowing water. It’s recommended to sponge bathe infants if using tap water. Tap water may be used for dishes washed by machine but add bleach to water used for dishes washed by hand. Water used for other household purposes does not need to be boiled.

After a Boil Water Advisory is Rescinded

tap runningOnce a BWA is rescinded, you should:

  • Run all cold-water faucets, fountains, and garden hoses for at least 1 minute before using the water.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
  • Drain and refill hot water heaters set below 45ºC (normal setting is 60ºC).

Our Commitment

Bluestem Utilities takes our responsibility to provide safe, clean, reliable water to our customers very seriously. We also appreciate Boil Water Advisories are a big inconvenience.

We rigorously adhere to strict testing and maintenance protocols as mandated by our provincial regulators and health authorities. And we ensure BWAs are only issued when necessary, and rescinded as soon as testing determines water is safe to drink. We’re also committed to keeping customers informed about all water quality issues in a timely fashion, through community postings, email, and this website.

We truly appreciate your cooperation and patience whenever Boil Water Advisories are required.