Boiling Points – Drinking Water Details Matter

Boil Water Advisory

Despite being known for its renewable freshwater, it’s not uncommon for Canada to have thousands of people living under drinking water advisories. A 2015 report from The Council of Canadians found that in January of that year there were at least 1,838 drinking water advisories in effect (

The Canadian Profile of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP-CP) (  provides rules, and managed lists of values, that are recommended for public alerting in Canada. In the case of drinking water advisories, there is a single type of event described by CAP-CP: Drinking Water. However, Health Canada defines three forms of drinking water advisories: Boil water, Do not consume, and Do not use.

Boil water are by far the most common drinking water advisory issued in Canada, and may be issued in response to planned or unplanned interruption to water services, water distribution system malfunction, or they may be incidental to other emergency events, such as severe weather or flooding. Although most often precautionary, boil water advisories should provide actions people should take to protect themselves from health risks, for example how long water must be boiled before it’s safe to consume.

In cases where boiling is not an effective purification measure, such as chemical or radiological contamination, Do not consume or Do not use advisories are issued. While these situations are rare, boiling water may lead to increased exposure to volatile contaminants, so the type of advisory is a very important distinction.

No matter the type of drinking water advisory, it is important to not only sound the alarm, but to inform people with specific guidance on how to respond, whether alternate water supplies should be used, and any other actions that should be taken, including when to seek medical attention.

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