Myth: The US Has a Standard Operating Procedure for Notifying the Public About Tap Water Contamination Emergencies

The EPA requires that the public be notified when their water becomes unsafe, but there is no nationwide standard operating procedure for how those notifications are made. In fact, there is no standard operating procedure in most states. Some cities have less-than-formal methods, too. 

When a water main breaks or E. coli is detected in the treatment facility, there are several different ways in which the public may be notified. Some cities have a phone or email system. Some go door-to-door to notify those affected. Others report it to news outlets or post on social media and hope the public sees the update. But there is no uniform way of notifying people that their water may be unsafe. Sadly, some people never realize their water supply is unsafe. 

To find out if your area has had a boil water advisory put in place because of an outbreak, visit

This post is part of a weekly series on environmental myths. You can find more myths here