The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the town of Morrison jointly have issued a bottled water advisory because of concerns about the Jefferson County community’s available water supply.
Extreme drought conditions are putting added pressure on the town’s water treatment system, and town officials initiated contact with state water quality experts, resulting in Tuesday’s advisory.
"We appreciate the foresight Morrison has shown in addressing an emerging situation that could result in unsafe water for its residents," said David Holm, director of the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Water Quality Control Division. "Although Morrison’s water currently meets all health standards that are applied to public water systems, we agreed with town officials that the bottled water advisory was the appropriate step to take."
Morrison extracts water for public use from Bear Creek, downstream from where other public water systems have introduced treated effluent back into the stream. The town then treats its water in its treatment plant before piping it to its residential and commercial users.
Typically, the flow rate in the stream where Morrison extracts water is about 16 cubic feet per second. A higher flow rate in the stream provides greater dilution of microorganisms and other potential contaminants in the water to be treated.
Currently, extreme drought conditions have reduced the flow rate to .3 to .5 cubic feet per second.
The town’s water treatment system is not designed to be able to ensure water quality under such extreme low flow conditions, Holm said.
The bottled water advisory recommends that bottled water be used for drinking until further notice.
Residents should make ice using bottled water and when preparing food. Residents may continue to shower, wash clothes and wash dishes using water from the tap.
If washing dishes by hand, residents should do the final rinse using only hot water and be sure that dishes are completely dry before using them again.
Restaurants are encouraged to serve bottled water and use ice that is either made from bottled water or purchased from an ice supplier. Equipment directly connected to the public water source like soda machines and coffee makers should not be used.
Heat sanitizing dish washing machines will adequately sanitize dishes if the final rinse temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Residents should not boil water because of the possibility of concentrating potential chemical contaminants.
Boiling, freezing, filtering or letting water stand does not reduce the chemical contaminant level. Excessive boiling may increase their concentration.
Contaminated water may contain microbes that cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.
The Department of Public Health and Environment is working closely with other Colorado communities at risk of facing circumstances similar to Morrison.
"We have a pretty good handle on a lot of the stresses that are likely to be placed upon public water systems as the result of the drought," said Holm.
"We want to be as far out in front of this as we can. It’s important we be proactive so that we can either avoid a situation where water fails to meet standards, or we can take immediate action if it does."