Frequently asked questions about boil water notices, and information on the status for large-scale notices

What is a boil water notice?

You receive a notice on your front door or hear a story on the radio or television that a boil water notice has been issued for your neighborhood. Exactly what does that mean? It depends a lot on the type of notice.

Notice types: precautionary vs. mandatory

Precautionary Boil Water Notices - Most notices are precautionary notices. These are notices advising customers to boil their water before consumption. A precautionary notice means that an incident occurred in which there is a slight chance of backflow or bacteria entering the drinking water system. These incidents include things such as low or no water pressure or a water line break. These notices are issued out of an abundance of caution.

Mandatory Boil Water Notices - A notice instructing customers to boil tap water before use. Issued when the drinking water system has confirmed results of contaminants in water tests exceeding an allowable level.

How notices are delivered

When a notice impacts a small area, each affected residential or business customer receives a notice on their door.

When the notice impacts a large area, the County provides updates on social media and the County website, issues news releases, updates the news media, and uses the HCFLAlert mass notification system to keep residents informed.

Notices are rescinded after tests confirm the water is safe. This is generally 48 hours later, but the time can vary depending on the testing required. Notices are rescinded via the same method they were delivered.

Sign up for the County’s HCFLAlert mass notification system to get direct notices on boil water notices in your area!

Treatment tips and FAQs

How do I boil my water so that it is safe to drink?
  • Bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 MINUTE, then allow the water to COOL BEFORE USE. Instead of boiling, you may also use bottled water.
  • The preferred method of treatment during a notice is boiling tap water since disinfection does not kill certain parasites. If there is a power outage, and boiling water is not an option, customers may disinfect tap water by adding eight drops (approximately 1/8 teaspoon) of regular unscented household bleach (four to six percent strength) per gallon of water. Mix the solution and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure only one time.

Can I use the water to rinse vegetables or fruits?

  • No, use boiled or bottled water to rinse fruits and vegetables.

Can I use my dishwasher?

  • Only if your model has a sanitizing cycle. That will bring the temperature high enough to destroy any bacteria that may be present.

Is it safe to take a shower?

  • Yes. The water may be used for showering if care is taken not to swallow or allow water in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Individuals who have recent surgical wounds, compromised immune systems, or chronic illness may want to consider using bottled water or tap water that has been boiled

Can I brush my teeth with the water?

  • Boiled or bottled water should be used for brushing teeth.

What about ice cubes or food prepared with water that should have been boiled?

  • Discard the ice cubes
  • If prepared food is not reheated, be on the safe side and don't eat it

What do I do after the boil water notice is lifted?

  • The Florida Department of Health recommends allowing the water to run for five minutes at each tap to flush the lines with safe water
  • Include misters, drinking fountains, ice makers (discard the first bin full), etc., when flushing the lines

What if I drank the water prior to seeing the notice?

  • In most cases, boil water notices are recommended only as a precaution. Hillsborough County issues these boil water notices on the conservative side of public safety. If you drank the water and are experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, you should seek medical attention. These symptoms are not unique to exposure to potential contaminants/organisms in the water, and a doctor's involvement would be key to identifying the cause of your illness.

See more Florida Department of Health Boil-Water FAQs

Business and posting notices

  • Businesses and non‐residential sites should take steps, such as posting notices at or disabling, water fountains and ice machines, during the boil water notice
  • If you provide water to visitors or employees, use a commercially produced bottled water for drinking or beverage preparation
  • Food service operations should contact their regulatory agency for any additional requirements

Guidelines for Restaurants Operating Under a Boil Water Notice

Additional resources


Get updates by phone:

  • Central and south Hillsborough County residents should call (813) 744-5600
  • Northwest Hillsborough County residents should call (813) 554-5011
Last Modified: 3/27/2024, 3:27:20 PM

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