Thousands lose water supply in flood crisis

July 25, 2007 at 2:12 am

The age-old adage of ‘Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink’ is proving a harsh reality for Gloucestershire residents affected by severe flooding. Around 350,000 people will be left without running water this week as rising floods close down local treatment works. Problems have been compounded by interrupted electricity supplies.

Those in flood-hit areas have been told not to panic as emergency measures are put in place to ensure supplies of clean water. Hundreds of bowsers (mobile water dispensers) have been dispatched by Severn Trent Water and the Army is distributing bottled water where people are stranded. Householders are also stocking up on shop-bought fluids, but shelves are emptying quickly.

Bowser water is safe to drink when tankers first arrive, but officials are advising a number of precautionary measures to prevent infection. The following advice has been issued by Gloucestershire County Council and Severn Trent Water:

  • Collect and store bowser water in a safe, clean container.
  • Where possible, boil bowser water before use.
  • Boiled bowser water is the best option for bottle-fed babies. Bottled water can also be used. It is important to keep babies hydrated, so unboiled bowser water can be used as a last resort.
  • Use bowser water as sparingly as possible and save it for drinking.
  • Flood water, rain water and water from streams can be used to flush the toilet. It is not necessary to flush every time but remember to wash hands after using the toilet.
  • If you have tap water but notice changes in quality, such as discolouration or a difference in taste or smell, ring your water company. If in doubt, boil water before drinking or use bottled water.
  • If your home has been flooded, assume water has been contaminated and boil it before drinking or use bottled water.
  • While health risks are low, try to avoid contact with flood water. If you have to deal with it, use protective clothing such as overalls, goggles, wellies and gloves.
  • Don’t allow children to play in flood water.
  • When walking through flood water, beware of hidden debris.
  • If you have been exposed to flood water wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food or eating.

Officials are also urging the public to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours to ensure they have access to clean water.

Severn Trent Water is regularly updating information for local residents on its website, including the locations of bowsers and public health advice on water quality. The Health Protection Agency publishes health advice for residents whose homes have been flooded.

The Environment Agency Floodline on 0845 988 1188 has information on the latest flood warnings.

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