Fire evacuees in Lillooet, B.C., returning to their homes after the Mount McLean wildfire are being told it could be up to two years before its safe to drink their water again.

A boil water advisory is now in effect for most residents who use the District of Lillooet water system.

The residents, who rely on an old wood-stave structure to provide drinking water, have been told it is no longer fit to drink because of ash and fire retardant in the watershed.

"I had to phone city hall to find out," resident Karen Williams said.

"It's a big pain, because my husband is on oxygen. He's not well and he goes down to the store and buys these big jugs of water and I have to haul them in."

Resident Liz Dunlop told CTV News boiling the existing water still doesn't make it safe to drink.

"I'm boiling the water, but that's not helping all that much because there's arsenic in it. And when you boil the water it doesn't take the arsenic out."

Clean drinking water is being made available in a large tank behind the local hockey rink, and residents can pick up bottles of water from the facility on weekdays.

Residents say waiting up to two years to have clean drinking water is an unacceptable situation.

"I'm not very pleased," Tom Lewis said. "We pay taxes for this and it should be corrected and as soon as possible."

For the time being, people aren't even tempted to ignore the order.

"We get water and it's just it smells really sulfury and it's not really that clear," Kerry Dekelver said.

"They said you can boil it for your pets and stuff like that but they're giving free water."

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat