The Real Difference Between A Boil Advisory And A Boil Order

You may have heard of a boil water advisory or a boil water order during or after a storm or other event. The two seemingly similar alerts are slightly different and it's important to make sure you're aware of those differences. 

The main factor in getting an advisory or an order is whether or not there is confirmed contamination or just potential contamination.

A boil water advisory is a precautionary measure that recommends people in a certain area boil their water for two minutes before using it for drinking or preparing food. It is issued when there is potential for compromised water quality (via Water One). When there is a confirmed contamination in the water system, a boil water order is issued. The order means all residents must boil their water before drinking or using it to prepare food.

Both boil water orders and boil water advisories include water used for brushing your teeth, drinking (for your pets too!) preparing a drink that uses water like baby formula, coffee or tea, preparing food, and washing your produce. It also means that you shouldn't use water from appliances that connect to your water line, like the water or ice makers from your refrigerator (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Potential causes for boil water advisories

Even if an advisory or order is issued, it is still safe to use the water without boiling for bathing or watering grass or plants. Bottled water is also an option if boiling is not possible.

So what would cause a possible contamination? It could be related to the water distribution system, loss of disinfection or water quality problems caused from water line breaks, floods, and power outages (via NY State Department of Health).

If you have questions about a boil water advisory or order, it is best to contact your public utility provider for the latest updates. How long a boil water order or advisory is in effect depends, and direct communication with your utility company ensures you can safely use your water without boiling it.