Home Blog Water Contaminants Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Said, “Boil Tap Water Before Drinking”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Said, “Boil Tap Water Before Drinking”

Dr. Jonathan Doyle - Updated February 21, 2021
The recent sudden power outage in Texas left everyone worried. Homes and businesses were left stranded after a deadly blast of winter left the electrical grid dead. Millions of Texans had to deal with the harsh weather, but this was only half of the problem. The other half is the absence of clean water due to the power outage. 
Thick ice layer indicating extreme low temperature
Despite the power being restored to more homes and businesses just after a week, the crisis is still very much in place, with thousands of people unable to access safe drinking water. Part of the weather-related power outage impacts was frozen water lines, which led to a considerable drop in water pressure. 
According to Toby Baker, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality executive director, the water pressure dropped because of frozen lines and because most Texans left their faucets dripping to ensure pipes do not ice over. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot warned announced that Houston residents "are out of the woods," with most areas of the state having temperatures well below freezing. 
In the last resort advice, the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, said he expects Texans to boil their tap water before drinking it. He further explained that the routine should be maintained for the upcoming week – until the entire grid is back online. Other Southern cities with disrupted water systems due to the outage include New Orleans, Louisiana, and Shreveport. 
Efforts are ongoing to restore normalcy to Houston and ensure residents go back to how their lives were before the unexpected power outage. But the big question is, was the government right to advise people to "boil tap water before drinking?" 
Let’s find out together.

Why would the government give such a suggestion? What is in our tap water?

From all indications, this suggestion from the government came as a ‘last resort’ type of help to rescue the situation. The advice becomes necessary because of the three problems mentioned below:
  • The failure of the government’s water filtration system to filter out impurities thoroughly after the disaster. 
  • Extremely low temperature leading to the bursting of pipes and ultimately water pollution. 
  • Aged transport pipes that re-contaminate the water. 
Interestingly, these issues have been there before the power outage – the situation only brought them to the fore. This brings us to the next question. 

How can we get a reliable water supply at home? Is boiled water really the answer?

You are most likely not reading about boiling water to make it cleaner and safer for drinking. If yes, you are probably wondering if it works or not. Well, the truth is it works – but only to an extent.
Heating your water reduces a few pollutants in the water, including heavy metals, pesticides, algae, and others. The keyword here is "reduced" – the contaminants are not completely removed. 
Likewise, the chlorine added to tap water during the sanitization process in the water treatment plant does more than sanitization.
The chlorine may stimulate the respiratory system, leading to chronic poisoning. It does this by transforming into hypochlorous acid and ultimately reacting with other elements in the water and pipes to synthesize carcinogen.
The chemical reactions are interesting (or not), but the real issue here is that boiling or heating your tap water does not prevent, reverse, or stop the synthesis.
What about the pipes transporting the water into our various homes?
Dirty sink scene
Lead-zinc water pipes or cast-iron water pipes have been confirmed to release lead of different degrees into the water they are carrying. The bad news here is that hating or boiling your water does not prevent the release or neutralize the lead. 
On a positive note, heating your tap water will ensure the common Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and other microorganisms do not survive. But a few stronger bacteria like Bacillus cereus and Bacillus anthracis will survive very high temperatures.
This means heating or boiling drinking water is not as effective as we think. It clearly does not make our water free of harmful contaminants. 
So, what is the way forward?

Introducing home water filtration systems

Over the years, the purification industry has come up with improved ways of making our water cleaner and safer for drinking. There are more efficient ways of removing pollutants from drinking water to ensure the safety of everyone. Let’s talk about a few of these ways. 

Under Sink Water Filter

The use of under sink water filter is not entirely new. They are water filters specially created for our sinks. Since they are point-of-use filters, they are installed right at the point where you collect your drinking water.
Under sink water filters are connected to your waterline, where they filter water directly through the faucet or refrigerator. If you think a whole house water filtration may be too much, consider an under sink water filter.
Asides from the compact size, the highly-efficient filtration process leaves you with healthy and pure water free of harmful contaminants.  
When you are in the market for your under sink water filter, making the right choice can be tricky. While you must do your research and find out which option best suits your needs, we recommend going for a reverse osmosis water filtration system.
It offers a pore size of 0.0001micron, which is just big enough for only water molecules to pass through. So, you can rest assured that impurities like dissolved salts, organics, bacteria, and pyrogens will not find their way into your drinking water. 
Read more about reverse osmosis systems here.

Filtration systems with ultrafiltration membranes

If you are not going for the reverse osmosis systems, you should consider the filtration systems with the ultrafiltration membrane. The filter membrane has a pore size of 0.01 micron and works without electricity. So, if you want to ensure you do not run out of water even when there is a power outage, this is your go-to filtration system. 
They filter off almost the same contaminants as reverse osmosis systems, but they retain the dissolved minerals, which are of great health benefits. So, when you get an ultrafiltration membrane filtration system, you remove impurities without missing out on the beneficial minerals in the water. 
So, what is the way forward?


No one knows when the next disaster will happen – what we can do is to be well-prepared in advance. It is essential to install a water filter system in your house, and if you already have one, remember to store replacement filters. With such preparations in place, you can rest assured that no emergency will get you stranded.