National Drinking Water Week kicked off yesterday–a day when water quality and safety was top of mind for many Americans due to continued leakage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

And while most news focused on ocean water, the American Water Works Association gave the annual weekly observance a theme of “Only Tap Water Delivers.”  A theme that holds true in many parts of the country.

Tap water is used daily for drinking, bathing, and cooking, but also benefits communities by providing water to businesses, schools, and hospitals.  Fluoridation of drinking water has led to a decreased incidence of tooth decay in communities nationwide.

Since disinfection, treatment, and environmental regulation of water pollutants have been introduced, domestic water quality has significantly improved and the risk of waterborne illness has decreased. 

In a press release announcing Drinking Water Week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated, “New challenges to the U.S. water supply include aging drinking water infrastructure, climate change impacts on water availability and quality, chemical contamination of water sources, emerging pathogens (e.g., Cryptosporidium), and the development of new ways to obtain and use water.”

“National Drinking Water Week is a time to highlight the importance of safe drinking water and recognize that protecting and reinvesting in water infrastructure is crucial to the health of persons living in the United States.”

This is an all too real statement for many Boston, Mass.-area residents and restaurant owners who since Saturday have been under a boil water notice after a major water pipe sprung a “catastrophic” leak.

The Boston Mayor’s office provided the following advice for preventing illness until Boston and the surrounding communities’ tap water has been determined safe:


–Do not use any ice made after the boil alert was issued [Saturday] evening until further notice.  Drain and sanitize all ice machines.

–You may wash dishes with a dish washer if it is set to a high temperature or using a chemical disinfectant

–You should serve only bottled water for drinking or water that has been boiled for at least a full minute

–For food preparation, you should only use water that has been boiled for at least one minute or bottled.

–Do not use any automated beverage dispenser which has water as one of the options.


–The MWRA has issued a boil water order for all households in the city of Boston.

–Water must be boiling for at least one minute before it is safe to drink.

–Do not use any tap water for cooking, baby formula, tooth-brushing, or food preparation that has not been boiled first, or is not bottled.

–Please check on elderly or vulnerable neighbors.

–Please avoid any unnecessary use of water (car washing, yard watering)

–Showering and bathing is safe, but you are advised to close your mouth and not consume any water.

Massachusetts residents under the boil water order will be able to consume tap water after the municipal water system has been flushed to ensure all bacteria has been eliminated from the system, and chlorine levels high enough to kill any pathogens present, thereby preventing the spread of illness from contaminated water.

Boston-area residents under the boil order could come up with some creative ways to participate in the American Water Works Association creative video contest celebrating National Drinking Water Week.  Anyone who films a video highlighting how they celebrate Drinking Water Week can post their video to YouTube and win a $1,000 gift certificate to the Water Works Association bookstore.  To enter, send a link to your YouTube video to  The deadline to enter is May 30, 2010.  Winners will be notified at a later date.