About drinking water advisories

Learn about different types of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities.

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What are drinking water advisories?

Drinking water advisories are issued to warn people not to drink water that based on water quality testing:

First Nations issue drinking water advisories in their communities. Provincial, territorial or local governments issue DWAs off-reserve. In many First Nations communities there are several types of water systems. Based on the type of water system, a drinking water advisory could affect one building or the whole community.

Some advisories are short-term. They warn residents of a short-term water quality issue on a certain water system.

Long-term drinking water advisories are those that have been in place for more than 1 year.

Why drinking water advisories are issued

Drinking water advisories are put in place for many reasons. A community may issue an advisory if there are problems in the whole water system, such as:

A community may also issue an advisory when it does not have:

Issuing drinking water advisories

When a potential concern about the drinking water quality is identified, an Environmental Health Officer employed by the Government of Canada or First Nations stakeholders will advise the Chief and Council.

The advice must:

It's the responsibility of the Chief and Council, or their delegates, to:

In British Columbia, the First Nations Health Authority, as part of the 2013 British Columbia Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nations Health Governance, has taken on the responsibility for providing independent public health advice and guidance to BC First Nations communities and provides funding and technical support to enable effective monitoring programs for drinking water quality.

Types of advisories

We can advise on 3 types of drinking water advisories:

Boil water advisories

Boil water advisories advise home users that they should bring their tap water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute before they:

  • drink the water
  • use the water for other purposes, such as to:
    • cook
    • feed pets
    • brush their teeth
    • make soups or ice cubes
    • wash fruits and vegetables
    • make infant formula or other drinks

During a boil water advisory, do not use tap water to bathe those who need help, such as:

  • infants
  • toddlers
  • the elderly

Give them sponge baths instead so they avoid swallowing the water.

Boil water advisories are issued when:

  • there are problems with the water treatment system, such as chlorine levels that are too low
  • the water has disease-causing:
    • viruses
    • bacteria
    • parasites

Do not consume advisories

Do not consume advisories are issued when the water system has contaminants, like lead, that can't be removed from the water by boiling.

Do not consume advisories are also called do not drink advisories. These advisories tell the public that they should not use their tap water to:

  • cook
  • drink
  • feed pets
  • brush their teeth
  • make soups or ice cubes
  • wash fruits and vegetables
  • make infant formula or other drinks

During a do not consume advisory, do not use tap water to bathe those who need help, such as:

  • infants
  • toddlers
  • the elderly

Give them sponge baths instead so they avoid swallowing the water by accident.

The water can still be used to shower and bathe:

  • adults
  • older children

Do not use advisories

Do not use advisories warn the public that they should not use their tap water for any reason. A do not use advisory is issued when:

  • using the water poses a health risk
  • the water system has pollutants that can't be removed through boiling
  • being exposed to the water through bathing could, perhaps due to a chemical spill, irritate the:
    • skin
    • eyes
    • nose
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