An Entire City was Under a Boil Water Order

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

I wanted to share with you a story that shows us why we all need water storage for emergencies, even if a disaster doesn’t happen.

What happened?

If you’ve lived in Houston for any amount of time, you know the city streets flood on a regular basis, even after a minor rainfall.  Many areas experience water interruptions due to broken pipes. I used my Berkey year round, because one of the neighborhoods I lived in consistently had brownish water coming out of the tap. But this time around, a major water main broke open, causing flooding in a major thoroughfare and stranding cars. The other result was a loss of water pressure in water which increases the risk of water becoming contaminated.

According to,

The pipe responsible for the boil order was installed 35 years ago. It broke open just before noon when a city contractor began digging to repair a “gradual leak” on the water line near Clinton Drive and East Loop 610, officials said, causing water to bubble onto the neighboring highway.

Jones said the pipe stems from the East Water Purification Plant, roughly three miles east of the break. The water line carried about 50 percent of the drinking water in Houston, officials said.

The result of one broken pipe

The whole city was placed in a “boil water” order. Many restaurants closed for the day due to lack of water. University and school cafeterias were also closed down.

What does boil water order mean?

To anyone under a boil water order:

  • Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled for at least two minutes, or drink only bottled water.
  • Only boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, food preparation, and water for pets. That’s because when water is contaminated, boiling kills harmful bacteria and other organisms in the water that may cause illness. Also, ice made in an automatic ice maker while the boil water order is in effect must be thrown away.

Water pressure was gradually restored, but the boil water order remained in effect for two days.

This story goes to show that tap water can get interrupted at any time, by reasons other than a disaster. That’s why we should all have water stored for such emergencies.

How to start your water storage quickly

  • Buy extra gallon containers the next time you go grocery shopping. Depending how many people you have in your household, you need one gallon per person per day. Add additional water for pet needs.
  • Wash 2-liter soda bottles thoroughly and refill with tap water. Other good food grade bottles are juice bottles.
  • A more long term solution would be to purchase a good water purifier such as the Berkey or  Survivor Pro-X. Make sure it removes both viruses and bacteria, as well as chemicals from the water.
  • Carry bottled water in your car in case you get stranded somewhere.
  • For other ideas on purifying drinking water, check out Four Easiest Ways to Purify Drinking Water.

It doesn’t take a major disaster to disrupt water supplies and other utilities. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare just in case. Hopefully, a major water main will never break in your city. But if one does, you’ll be glad you were ready.


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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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