In Case of Emergency

Links to the topics below:  

To report a leak, line rupture, loss of service, sewer backup or overflow, or other water or sewer emergency:

  • During Normal Busines Hours
    From 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, call 919-968-4421.
  • After Hours
    Please call 919-968-4421 and follow the directions in our recorded message.
  • 911
    For emergencies such as a crime or fire, or to request an ambulance, dial 911.

Preparing for water and sewer emergencies 

An interruption of water and/or sewer service affecting a large part or all of our community could occur due to a major storm or other conditions. 

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 our 24 hour number, 919-968-4421, and we will investigate. 

In addition to the actions below, we strongly recommend that you sign up for OC Alerts so you can receive emergency messages from Orange County, the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill and OWASA by phone, e-mail and text.  

Also, please contact us at 919-968-4421 or when you change your phone number, e-mail address, etc. 

Preparing for emergencies involves more than water. For overall information from Orange County Emergency Management on building a kit and making a plan, please click here

Residents and businesses may wish to check their insurance policies to understand the scope of coverage and to consider the costs and benefits of adding coverage. For example, businesses may wish to consider coverage for interruption of operations.  

To prepare for a water or sewer emergency


Store enough bottled water to have one gallon per person per day for at least three days, as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

  • Store bottled water for use by pets if you have them. 
  • 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 "Not Drinking Water" and saved for purposes such as flushing toilets. 
  • After use, bottles should be recycled or reused.

You can flush a toilet with a tank once when water service is off. 

  • If you have a toilet without a tank or if the tank is empty, you can flush the toilet by pouring 1 to 2 gallons of water into the bowl. You can use a container such as a bucket to pour the water. 
  • If possible, flush with non-drinking water such as water from a creek, pond, rain barrel, well (if you have access to one), etc.  
  • If advance notice is given, before a water shortage/emergency or service interruption, you may wish to save several gallons of water in a bath tub or containers for flushing. We recommend marking containers as “Not drinking water” so you can store them for an extended time. 
  • Flush only when necessary. 
  • You can flush with gallon jugs of bottled water if necessary, but do not use bottled water if it is or will likely be in short supply. In an emergency, bottled water is needed most for drinking, cooking and hygiene. 


If you cannot use toilets, showers, etc. due to a back-up in your plumbing drains or OWASA's sewer, it will be necessary to limit water use to essentials such as flushing solids, and go to a place where you can use toilets and showers, etc. 

To prevent back-ups in your drains, use toilets, sinks and other drains only for human waste, bath tissue, water from washing clothes and dishes, and water from showering, bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth and other normal purposes. 

  • Do not put trash or garbage in toilets. 
  • Hygiene wipes, such as baby wipes, should be put in a sealed plastic bag and disposed of with refuse even if the wipes are sold as “flushable.” 
  • Dispose of residential fat and grease with refuse and recycle used cooking oil at the Orange County Household Hazardous Waste facility. 

Questions or comments?  Please contact us at 919-968-4421 or  

OC Alerts – Keeping Citizens Informed

OC Alerts sends critical communications by telephone land line, text to a mobile phone and/or e-mail to citizens who have a listed land line phone number or register their mobile phone/e-mail information with OC Alerts. (It is necessary for a citizen to have e-mail or texting service to receive alerts through those means.) The OC Alerts system distributes emergency information such as evacuation notices and missing child alerts.

Please click here to register with OC Alerts, provide your contact information, etc. Your contact information remains private and will only be used for community notifications.

Water-related reminders for emergency preparedness

Be prepared in advance for a water service interruption:

  • Store one gallon of drinking water per person per day for a potential 3 to 7 days without normal water service. Save drinking water in clean containers or get bottled water for washing hands, personal consumption, brushing teeth, cooking, etc. To have a 7-day supply, a family of three would generally have 21 gallons, but extra water may be needed for people with special needs, such as infants and seniors.
  • Please also save drinking water for pets. 
  • Save water in bathtubs or containers for flushing toilets. If water service is interrupted, a toilet with a tank can be flushed once with the water left in the tank. Then use water saved in a container or bathtub to refill the toilet tank before flushing again. 

If water pressure is reduced, reduce water use by flushing toilets less often, taking short showers, stopping outdoor water use and other conservation methods. (Please click here for more information on how to conserve.)

(If service has been interrupted) when water service is restored, please check our 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 5 minutes, please contact OWASA at 919-968-4421.  

Please contact OWASA at 919-968-4421 if you see damage to water or sewer facilities, leaks in water pipes or sewer back-ups or overflows.

Because of the possibility of damage to fixtures or pipes in a home, business, etc., 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/building, or in the crawlspace if there is one. If you vacate your home or business, turn off the water using the shut-off valve.

In the unlikely event that drinking water quality is affected or if it becomes necessary to boil water as a precaution, OWASA would advise customers through the news media; the automated telephone notice program (if conditions permit), e-mails (if conditions permit) to citizens who have shared their addresses with OWASA; and the OWASA website. Listed landline phone numbers are normally already in the database for the automated telephone alert program. If you are not sure that your number is included in this program or if you wish to add your cell phone numbers, please click here.

Avoid flood waters including water that is rising or moving fast, and avoid areas where flooding has occurred in the past.

For more information about emergency preparations, please see the Orange County webpage at  

For more information from OWASA: 919-968-4421 or