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Why do water utilities issue boil water orders?

The Portland Water District invests millions of dollars each year to replace old water pipes and upgrade infrastructure, but unfortunately water mains still break. This presents a potential pathway for contaminants to enter the drinking water system.

Fortunately, there are ways to limit this from happening. When a break in a pipe occurs, water pressure inside the pipe pushes water out and prevents contaminants from entering. Also, during the repair process additional precautions are used such as disinfecting tools and equipment, trench control, and thoroughly flushing pipes after repairs are made. When used together, these steps keep the water safe and protect your health. In rare cases a large water main break can result in negative water pressure in the pipe which increases the risk of contamination. It is in these situations that the Portland Water District may issue a “Boil Water Order.”

Important things to know about a Boil Water Order (BWO)

– BWOs are almost always PRECAUTIONARY. To date, all PWD BWOs have been precautionary and put in place because the risk of contamination is heightened.

– Normal water main breaks can be repaired under pressure and do not require a boil water order.

– BWOs recommend boiling your water at a rolling boil for 1 minute before using it for drinking, brushing teeth or cooking.

– You can safely shower, clean, do laundry or water plants without boiling the water, as long as you are not ingesting the water.

– Once the repair is complete PWD will test the water for bacteria at multiple locations to make sure the water is safe. This test takes 18-24 hours after the water main is repaired. If the bacteria test passes the BWO is lifted.

– During boil order alerts, the Portland Water District notifies customers through multiple channels including our web site, social media and the CodeRED emergency alert system. To make sure CodeRED has your correct information, sign in and verify your contact number and designate your preferred method of notice. ( .