Flood Sanitation

Flooded Wells, Safe Water Alternatives

Wells that have been flooded are likely to be contaminated with disease causing organisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.). Chemical contamination of wells from the floodwater is also a potential. Alternative sources of drinking water should be utilized until the well can be disinfected and tested to be safe.

Emergency Sources of Water

Alternative sources of clean water can be found inside and outside the home. DO NOT DRINK water that has an unusual odor or color, or that you suspect might be contaminated. A minimum of one gallon of water per person per day is needed for drinking, cooking, and washing. 

Possible in home water sources:

  • Use bottled water when possible. 
  • Water from your home's water heater tank (part of your drinking water system, not your home heating system). 
  • Melted ice cubes made with water that was not contaminated. 
  • Liquid from canned fruit and vegetables, pop or juice also contain water. 

Stay up to date on local notices and advice on water precautions for your home. 

Possible water sources outside the home: 

Floodwater can contaminate well water and rivers, streams, and lakes with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other contaminants that lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing, and other hygiene activities. 

Water from sources outside the home must be treated through boiling, adding disinfectants, or using filters, because it could be contaminated. If you suspect the water is contaminated it cannot be made safe. You should not drink or bathe in this water. 

Possible water sources that could be made safe by treatment include: 

  •  Rainwater
  • Spring water
  • Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
  • Coiled garden hose

DO NOT USE water that has been contaminated by fuel or toxic chemicals. 

Drinking Water Wells

Drinking water wells that have been impacted by flood waters are likely to be contaminated. This includes not only wells that were flooded over but also wells located close to the river, as subsurface movement of floodwaters into adjacent wells may have caused them to become contaminated. In some cases, this subsurface movement of water from the river into adjacent wells is so great that it results in water under pressure exiting out the top of the well. 

Water from affected wells should not be consumed until the well has been disinfected and tested to be safe. 

Disinfection and Testing of Wells

Clear hazards away from wells before cleaning and disinfecting them and take the following safety precautions: 

  • Turn off all electricity to the well areas before clearing debris. Do not attempt to repair the water system unless you are experienced with this type of work: electrical shock can occur. Inspect all electric connections for breaks in insulation and for moisture. Connections must be dry and unbroken to avoid electric shock. 
  • Carefully inspect the area around the well for hazards such as power lines on the ground or in the water; sharp metal, glass, or wood debris; open holes; and slippery conditions. 
  • Do not enter the well pit. Gases and vapors can build up in well pits, creating a hazardous environment. Clear debris from dug wells using buckets, grappling hooks, nets, and long-handled scoops. 
  • Before the power is turned back on for the well, a qualified electrician, well contractor, or pump contractor should check the equipment wiring system. 
  • Wear protective goggles or a face shield when working with chlorine solutions. Chlorine solutions may cause injury to the eye, irritate skin and damage clothing. 
  • Work in well ventilated areas and avoid breathing vapors when mixing and handling chlorine solutions. 
  • Warn users not to bathe in water until all the well has been disinfected. 

Specific well disinfection instructions can be found at: