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Recovering After a Wildfire

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Published on November 10, 2016. Last modified on September 03, 2019

Published on . Last modified on September 6, 2016


After a Wild Fire – Your Water Supply

Boil your water until you have completed an assessment, made any necessary repairs, and sample results show the water is absent for coliform.  If system lost pressure or repairs are made, disinfect before testing.  See Disinfection  and Boil Water Order instructions


For physical damage or a loss in pressure, perform a visual inspection of your well, spring, or surface water intake and all other pipes and appurtenances which work together to bring water into your household. The things you should be looking for include:

  • Damage to electrical wires and connectors which supply power to your water system
  • Damage to above ground PVC pipes used with the well to bring water to your home
  • Damage to well houses and equipment such as chlorinators, filters, or controls
  • Damage to sanitary seal or damage to surface water intake structure
  • Damage to pressure tanks which could have been caused by exposure to excessive heat
  • Damage to storage tanks, vents and overflow pipes

If any damage is found, you should contact the appropriate licensed contractor or driller to repair the damage.

Plan for a storm event


If your water clarity is affected by typical rain events, we advise the well to be turned off and surface water systems to close or remove intake structure. This will prevent clogging and introduction of debris into the water system

  • Know your neighbor – Get to know neighboring water systems, plan on how neighboring water systems can help each other during an emergency.
  • Create storage: create 5-10 days of water storage. While it may be difficult to do this alone, if neighboring systems join together it is possible.
  • What to expect of the surface water source after a storm event:
    • Sediment – the first few storms will carry sediment loads up to 10 times normal   
    • Flow volume- Due to the loss of vegetation, the flows will be up to 2 times greater than before
    • Flow Rate – The high sediment causes a smoother faster flow.  This quick speed can cause quick transfer of debris
    • Ash- Ash can clog pipes and become a haven for breeding microbes, chlorine reacts with ash to form by products that are harmful.
    • Changes in taste, color, odor- you may notice that your water tastes or smells earthy, smoky or burnt and you may need to thoroughly flush your water lines.

For more information, questions, or concerns please contact Environmental Health Bureau at (831) 755-4507


Click here for a list of Operators with whom Monterey County Health Department, Environmental Health Bureau, (MCHD, EHB) has recently worked. The list may not be complete and should only be used as a guide. MCHD, EHB does not endorse or recommend any of the following samplers/operators over other samplers/operators that are not listed. MCHD, EHB recommends that you question prospective samplers/operators about their experience and certification licenses to make sure their licenses are current and meet the minimum requirements of your water system. You can check the status of a license at www.waterboards.ca.gov.


Abalone Coast Analytical
141 Suburban Rd #1
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 595-1080
 Dellavalle Laboratory Inc.
1910 W McKinley Ave. Ste. 110
Fresno CA 93728-1298
(559) 233-6129
FAX (559) 268-8174
A&L Western Agricultural Laboratories, Inc
1311 Woodland Ave, Ste 1
Modesto, CA 95351
(209) 529-4080
FAX 9209)529-4736
Monterey Bay Analytical Services
4 Justin Court. Suite D
Monterey ,CA 93940
(831) 375-6227
FAX(831) 641-0734
Provides sampling services
Alpha Analytical Laboratories, Inc.
6398 Dougherty Rd. Ste. 25
Dublin, CA 94568
(925) 828-6226
FAX (925) 828-6309
Monterey County Consolidated Laboratory
Monterey County Health Dept.
1270 Natividad Rd.
Salinas, CA 93906
(831) 755-4516
FAX (831) 755-4652

BC Laboratories
4100 Atlas Ct.
Bakersfield, CA 93308
(800) 878-4911
FAX(661) 327-1918
City of Soledad Water Quality Control Lab
35420 Morisoli Rd.
Soledad, CA 93960
(831) 223-5190
FAX (831) 223-5192
Bolsa Analytical
2337 Technology Pkwy Ste. K
Hollister, CA 95023
(831) 637-4590
FAX (831) 634-1854

Soil Control Lab
42 Hangar Wy.
Watsonville, CA 95076
(831) 724-5422
FAX (831) 724-3188

CM Analytical Inc
6700 Brem Ln. #10
Gilroy, CA 95020
(408) 848-3619

Collecting Bacteriological Water Samples


If possible, collect samples at cold-water faucets that are free of contaminating devices such as screens, aeration devices, hoses, point-of-use devices, or swiveled faucets. If you must use a tap that has a screen or an aeration device, remove these before taking your sample. Do not obtainmicroscope-vector_Gy9blxD_-291x300 samples from taps that leak around the valve stem and allow water to flow over the outside of the tap. This leakage could be a significant source of external contamination of the sample. Faucets must be high enough to put the bottle underneath without contacting the mouth of the container with the faucet.

Taking the sample:

  1. Open the faucet and thoroughly flush the line for at least two to five minutes. The longer the water runs the better the chance of flushing out bacteria that may be in the building plumbing.
  2. Reduce the flow until the water leaving the tap has a continuous, gentle flow without any turbulence.
  3. Sterile containers provided by your laboratory must be used. Label the sample with the System Name recognized by the county (found at the upper left corner of your Water Inspection Report). Do not rinse the bottle prior to taking the sample. The powder in the bottle is sodium thiosulfate that inactivates any chlorine-based disinfectant. Be sure this substance stays in the bottle.
  4. Remove the cap from the sample bottle and keep it in your hand facing down. Do not touch the inside of the cap or the bottle’s inner surface as these actions can contaminate the sample.
  5. Carefully place the sample bottle under the running water. Fill the bottle just to the fill-line; do not overfill the sample bottle or allow the water to splash.
  6. Quickly replace the cap on the bottle and label the sample clearly. If samples cannot be delivered to the lab immediately, place samples in a cooler with cold packs. If ice is used, at no time should the sample container be immersed or submerged in the ice or melted ice water. The sample must be delivered to the laboratory within 24 hours from the time of collection.

If contamination of the sample tap is suspected:

  1. Scrub the outside and inside of the tap with a plastic-bristled brush to loosen any attached debris.
  2. Open the faucet and thoroughly flush the line for at least two to five minutes and then turn the tap off.
  3. Swab the tap with a disinfectant such as bleach and wait for one to two minutes.
  4. Continue with the sampling procedures described above, starting with #1 (“Open the faucet…”).

More information about recovery from wildfires

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