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Ready DC
Ready DC

Water Contamination

Water contamination can occur from a variety of sources, including bacteria, viruses, and chemical agents. Contamination to the District’s drinking water sources, although infrequent, may pose a risk to the health of its citizens. Contamination can be localized (occurring only at your home) or occur across the District if drinking water is either contaminated at the source, or at central supply stations or reservoirs and is then distributed through supply lines before water resource officials become aware that contamination has occurred. 

Managing these risks in the District means monitoring and testing water quality continuously and completely, at the source(s) of the water supply and throughout the water distribution infrastructure including pump stations, water lines, water reservoirs and other containment assets, and water treatment facilities. In addition, the public can help reduce risks of contamination by taking certain precautions at home or work to reduce the risk of occurrence and prepare and respond to a water contamination event.

For more information on water contamination and water quality testing, visit:
DC Water



Use the following tips to reduce the risk of contamination, and to prepare your home, family and pets for a water contamination event:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Build or re-stock your Emergency Kit – include one gallon of water per person for three days.
  • If your water source is well water, consider contacting local water authorities for the best methods to reduce risk of contamination to your well.
  • Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don’t throw paints, oils or other forms of litter down the drain.
  • Take great care not to overuse pesticides and fertilizers. This will prevent runoffs of the material into nearby water sources.
  • By having more plants in your garden you are preventing fertilizer, pesticides and contaminated water from running off into nearby water sources.
  • Don’t throw litter into rivers, lakes or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on beaches or in rivers and lakes, make sure it is safe to collect the litter and put it in a nearby dustbin.



Use the following tips to keep your home, family and pets safe during a water contamination event:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Monitor your children and pets, and/or others under your supervision to ensure that they do not consume contaminated water.
  • If you witnessed the contamination event, please contact District officials immediately.
  • In addition to water in your Emergency Kit, you can increase your water supply by boiling it in a large pot or kettle. Bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
  • If you lose power or are not able to boil water, add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor.
    • If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
    • If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.
  • Contact District officials to determine if tap water is safe to drink.
  • Continue to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
  • Ensure your children and/or others under your supervision keep hydrated.
  • Check on your pets to make sure they are hydrated.
  • Communicate with family members and friends.
    • If you have a cell phone, call, text, email or use social media.
    • If you have access to a computer, use an online registry such as the Red Cross website, “Safe and Well”.
    • If you do not have a cell phone, use social media apps on personal gaming or tablet devices.
    • If you do not have access to technology, go to your pre-designated meeting place for you to reconnect with family members or consider relaying information through friends, family or even your workplace.
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children, the elderly, or people with disabilities or access and functional needs.



Use the following tips to help you, your family and pets recover safely from a water contamination event:

DC Water Guidance:

What is a water emergency?
Preparing for a water emergency
Responding to water emergencies
Sewer Emergencies

Additional Resources: