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Top Subject of Interest: Boil Water Notices

Find out what circumstances warrant that public water systems issue boil water notices to customers, where and how they are required to provide the notices, and when they may be lifted or rescinded.

When a public water system (PWS) issues a Boil Water Notice (BWN) to their customers, it indicates the water in the distribution system may be unsafe for consumption or may pose an acute health risk. It is important that customers of any water system that has issued a BWN not drink the water without first boiling it as directed by the water provider. A BWN is intended to reduce the possibility of waterborne illnesses resulting from consuming water which may contain harmful microbes.

When is a BWN issued?

  • When a violation poses an acute health threat to the customers of the PWS 30 TAC, subchapter F, Section 290.122(a) Exit the TCEQ, such as:
    • E. coli:A PWS exceeds the Microbial E. coli Maximum Contaminant Level (EMCL) and receives a violation, which can occur if the system:
      • Collects a sample that is total coliform positive and any of the required repeat samples are positive for E. coli.
      • Collects a sample that is E. coli positive and any of the required repeat samples positive for either total coliform or E. coli.
      • Fails to collect all required repeat samples after an E. coli positive routine sample.
      • Fails to test for E. coli when any repeat samples test positive for total coliform. 30 TAC 290.109(b)(1)(A-D) Exit the TCEQ
    • Turbidity: High turbidity levels indicate a severe failure in filtration and possibly other treatment processes at the plant when:
      • a conventional water treatment plant has a finished water (combined filter effluent) turbidity level above 5.0 Nephelometric Turbidity Unit, or;
      • a plant with membrane filters has a finished water turbidity level of above 1.0 NTU (for systems that treat surface water or groundwater under the direct influence of surface water).
    • Groundwater systems that experience high turbidity should contact TCEQ as soon as possible to determine if there is a threat to public health and if a BWN is necessary.
  • Any event where conditions at a PWS are such that public health protection is compromised or potentially compromised 30 TAC 290.46(q) Exit the TCEQ, such as:
    • Low pressure (i.e., below 20 pounds per square inch)
    • Water outages
    • Disinfectant residual levels below the required minimum (i.e., 0.2 mg/L free and 0.5 mg/L total)
    • Line breaks or repairs (construction)
    • Storage problems
    • Well problems
    • Mechanical equipment problems
    • Power outages
    • Treatment facility problems
    • Natural disasters

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What is a proper BWN notice?

The BWN must be issued as soon as possible, but in no case later than 24 hours after the violation or condition occurs. The PWS must use the mandatory language for issuing a BWN, and use one or more of the following methods of delivery.

Delivery options by type of water system

System Type Delivery Options
  • Furnish copy to Radio/TV in the service area
  • Publication in a local, daily newspaper
  • Direct delivery or continuous posting
  • Electronic delivery or alert systems (e.g. reverse 911)
  • Direct delivery or continuous posting
  • Electronic delivery or alert systems (e.g. reverse 911)

If continuous posting is used, it must remain in place for as long as the violation exists or seven days, whichever is longer. If demographics indicate a need for multilingual notification, the system is required to issue the notice in all appropriate languages.

The system must notify the TCEQ within 24 hours of issuing a BWN and provide the notice language documentation to the TCEQ within 10 days.

The BWN must include:

  • PWS ID / Name
  • Date BWN was issued
  • Reason BWN was issued
  • PWS contact name(s) and direct contact phone number(s). The TCEQ must be able to reach a system individual who is aware of the situation and can discuss the details with our staff. Customers should also be provided with a water system phone number for their questions.

    The PWS must verify that it has returned to normal operating conditions after the problem has been fixed and bacteriological samples come back negative for any bacterial indicator.

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When is a notice lifted?

To rescind/lift the BWN, the PWS must have:

  • Corrected the condition or determined that the water does not pose an acute health risk
  • Flushed and disinfected the affected area or entire distribution system
  • Returned to normal operating parameters (power restored, required pressure, no excessive turbidity, and at the required minimum disinfectant residual levels at all parts of the distribution system)
  • Collected bacteriological samples marked as special and have obtained negative coliform results. After the above has been accomplished, the system must issue the rescind/lift notice in the same manner as the BWN and include the following:
  • PWS ID / PWS Name
  • Date rescinded
  • Date BWN issued
  • The problem has been resolved and the water is now safe to drink without boiling

The system must notify the TCEQ within 24 hours of rescinding a BWN and provide a copy of the BWN, the rescind notice, and their certificates of delivery to the TCEQ within 10 days.

For more information or to maintain a copy of the BWN templates please see the Public Notice to Boil Water webpage.

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