Boil Water Advisories

A boil water advisory is a warning issued by health authorities once the public’s water is potentially contaminated by a number of different sources. There are two types of BWAs: precautionary and mandatory. Precautionary advisories occur when there is a loss in positive water pressure and the water system is more susceptible to be contaminated. Mandatory advisories happen when the water has been confirmed to be contaminated by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Photo of a news broadcast about an previous BWA in Pittsburgh. Photo from WTAE Pittsburgh.

Photo of a news broadcast about an previous BWA in Pittsburgh. Photo from WTAE Pittsburgh.

BWAs recommend citizens boil their water for at least one minute before consumption or cooking. Showering and washing clothes in the contaminated water is not harmful, but any ingestion can be dangerous and possibly cause nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and other associated symptoms. The PA Department of Environmental Protection must confirm the water is clean of contaminants for two consecutive days for the BWA to be withdrawn.

Pittsburgh is no stranger to these advisories, having 3 issued by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority in 2017. These separate instances in January, August, and December were call for concern as over 100,000 households were collectively affected by potentially unsafe water. The BWAs can be attributed to Pittsburgh’s aging infrastructure leading to the deterioration of the extensive network of pipes as well as water main breaks.

Our mission at RAIN is to serve the public by implementing an Early Warning System in the Ohio River Basin to address public health issues related to water quality and spill detection. Due to our Early Warning System, we are able to alert water treatment facilities when there is an abnormality near water intakes to prevent any contaminants from entering the facility and hopefully avoid events such as boil water advisories.


Marissa Rollman