Prepare for an Emergency

We don’t go through our daily lives predicting leaks, wastewater overflows or water-line ruptures, but by definition, the unexpected happens at the moment you least expect it. While we can’t predict when emergencies arise, there are ways to be more prepared for when they strike.


To report a leak, line ruptures, loss of service, wastewater backup, overflow or other emergencies:

Sign Up for  Alerts with OC Alerts

Be sure to subscribe to OWASA Alerts under “Non-Emergency Alert Subscriptions”

During Normal Business Hours

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

(919) 968-4421

After Hours

Follow the directions in our recorded message.

(919) 968-4421


For emergencies such as a crime or fire, or to request an ambulance, dial 911.

Water Service Interruption

Sometimes when a pipe breaks or a major weather event occurs, such as during hurricane season, water service can be interrupted. We recommend always being prepared for an emergency.

Here are some tips for water preparedness:

Store bottled water.

We recommend always having a reserve of bottled water on hand.

Don’t drink expired bottled water.

Bottled water should not be used after the expiration date because of the potential for bacteria to grow in the water over time. However, expired water can be marked and saved for non-drinking purposes, such as flushing toilets.

Image of Bottled Water

Save several gallons of water in a bathtub.

If you have advance notice before an emergency or service interruption, use your bathtub as a reservoir to save for flushing your toilet.

Flush your toilet only when necessary.

You can flush a toilet with a tank only once after water service has been interrupted. If you have a toilet without a tank or if the tank is empty, you can flush the toilet by pouring a gallon of water into the bowl. If possible, flush with non-drinking water, such as water from a creek, pond, well or rain barrel.

Find and mark your emergency shut-off valve.

If you must vacate your home or business, you’ll need to turn off the water using this shut-off valve. Because of the possibility of damage to fixtures or pipes in a home or business, make sure you know and mark the location of the emergency shut-off valve in your plumbing system. The shut-off valve may be in a closet near the front of the house or building, or possibly in a crawlspace, if you have one.

When service returns, check water for discoloration and air bubbles.

If there is discoloration or air in the water, run cold water in a bathtub for a few minutes until the water and/or air bubbles clear up. If the water is not clear within about five minutes, please contact OWASA’s 24-hour Customer Service line at (919) 968-4421.

If your water is off or has low pressure and if you did not receive a notice from us about a planned interruption, please contact us at (919) 968-4421 and we will investigate.

Image of Manhole Overflowing

Wastewater Service Interruption

Wastewater service interruptions can occur during major weather events or if OWASA needs to clear out a backup or blockage. If you cannot use toilets, showers or other appliances due to a backup, limit water use to essentials, such as flushing solids. To reduce backups or wastewater blockages, follow our recommendations on what not to put down your drain.

Storm Preparedness FAQs

What can I do to prepare for a major storm?

Have a hurricane preparedness plan in place. Don’t be without water: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a store of one gallon per person per day for three to seven days. You’ll need it for drinking, cooking and hygiene. Factor in extra water for infants, seniors or your pets when preparing for a storm. Either purchase commercially bottled water or prepare your own containers at home. In the latter case, thoroughly clean your containers before storing water.

Is it safe to drink tap water during a major storm, even if the power goes out?

Yes. If your water service has not been disrupted, it is safe to drink tap water as usual. However, if there is a water service disruption, you will be notified when service is restored, and you may be advised to boil your water for a 24-hour period or more. Knowing that communication options may be limited during a major storm, if there is a water disruption, OWASA will share updates in multiple ways: by email, via local media, on our website, on Twitter @OWASA1 and, if safe to do so, with notices to customers’ homes.

If my water is not working, how long will it take for OWASA to fix it?

OWASA will work to restore service promptly, but staff and community safety is our utmost priority during major storms. Heavy flooding, downed trees, road closures or other barriers may prevent us from accessing some service areas. As soon as it’s safe to do so, we will restore service and notify customers.

If my water is not working, can I still send water down the sink?


If my water is not working, can I flush my toilet?

In the event of a water service interruption, if you flush your toilet, the existing water that was in the tank behind the seat will not refill. A toilet can only be flushed if there is water in the tank for flushing. Consider having extra water available, for example, by filling your bathtub, using that reserve of water to refill the back of your toilet tank each time you need to flush. Also, consider flushing only when absolutely necessary.

What if I see a broken water main or an overflowing manhole during a storm?

Avoid the area and report this emergency by calling 911.

I’m scheduled to pay my bill the week of a major storm. What will happen?

Depending on the path of a weather event, OWASA may begin to operate in emergency operations mode. If we revert to this mode, regular customer services like bill payments and system hookups will be suspended until we return to normal operations. During the emergency event, no customers will have their water service turned off due to non-payment of an outstanding bill.

Will my automatic draft take place on schedule?

Scheduled auto-drafts will continue if conditions permit.

What about leak notifications and site visits?

In the case of a major weather event, services such as leak notifications and troubleshooting site visits will be suspended during the course of the emergency.

I live in an apartment that does not hold the water account in my name. How can I receive alerts?

We encourage all community members to sign up for Orange County’s emergency alerts. Also, OWASA will share regular updates about our operations status and any service interruptions via email, local media, on our website and on Twitter @OWASA1.