These 16 Tips Will Help You Survive When the Water Runs Out
Getting caught without running water — due to a freeze, busted pipe or some other unforeseen emergency — is no laughing matter. It can be devastating and, if it lasts long enough, deadly.
Gaye Levy from Backdoor Survival has some tips on how to cope when you don't have running water.
Every prepper worth their salt stores water and lots of it. Not only that, they store one, two, three, or more ways to purify water.
That is all well and good because you never know when a disaster or other disruptive event may occur and those water resources will be called upon for drinking, cleaning, hygiene, and sanitation purposes.
Recently, my number came up and I was the one without water during a short-term, personal water apocalypse. Now really, that may be a bit dramatic because I was simply without running water.
This was caused by a break in the line from the water main on the street to my home. All told I was without running water for 12 days.
To be honest, I was quite relaxed about the ordeal. After all, I had cases of bottled water for drinking, a 55-gallon water barrel holding purified water, a source of raw, unfiltered water from a gravity pump right outside my house, and of course, my Berkey, LifeStraw Family, SolarBag, and pool shock for water purification.
Still, being without running water brought up issues I had not considered. Albeit water-ready, the reality of not being able to turn on the tap and have fresh, and especially hot, water was a new experience.
Today I share tips for coping without running water so that you can be better prepared if something similar happens to you.
16 Tips for Coping Without Running Water
1. With advance notice of a water shutoff, fill the bathtub and as many spare jugs and buckets as you can round up. In addition, fill the Berkey, if you have one and all of your sinks.
2. Double up on hand sanitation. Fill a spray bottle with liquid castile soap, water, and a copious amount of tea tree or other anti-bacterial essential oil.
To wash your hands, spray with a generous amount of your soap/tea tree mixture then rinse with water from a filled sink or a container of water set next to the sink. Follow-up with commercial hand sanitizer. See DIY Liquid Castile Soap.
3. Know the location of your preps! In my case, I had two camp showers that could have been used for taking hot showers after heating water on the stove. Could I find them? Nope.
4. No matter how many buckets you have, you need more. In addition, make sure the buckets you have are manageable, weight-wise when filled with water. Remember, water weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon.
My buckets were re-purposed 2-pound buckets obtained for free from a local café and were small enough for me to handle comfortably when filled. A water-filled 5-gallon bucket would have been a problem.
5. When using the toilet, flush liquids daily but solids upon each use. I had two toilets in use so it was easy to abide by this formula. I did not, however, flush TP (see below).
6. Dispose of toilet paper into a wastebasket and not into the toilet. This will prevent your toilet from backing up because it is crammed with paper! Been there, done that.
Do, however, be mindful of the smell and dispose of the contents of your wastebasket daily. Baking soda helps control odors if you can not dispose of soiled TP often enough.
7. When it comes time to flush, fill the tank with water and use the handle on the toilet to flush. This uses less water than dumping water into the bowl.
8. Stock up on disposable plates, cups, and eating utensils. Cleaning up after meals will be a challenge and will use a lot of water. Save the water you have for cooking utensils and use disposables for everything else.
9. Clean with cloths and rags, not sponges. Without proper cleaning, sponges will become very unsanitary quickly. Gross even. Use microfiber cloths or cleaning rags made from discarded tee shirts or towels. They can be washed using a Mobile Washer, tossed in the garbage, or laundered when things return to normal.
10. Learn to take “sponge baths” using a washcloth and soap. Your spray bottle of castile soap will come in handy for this. Better yet, lay in a supply of No-Rinse Bath Wipes (my favorite), homemade wipes (something I still need to learn to do), or baby wipes.
11. Have at least one way to filter and purify water gathered from the outdoors.
12. Learn to hook a hose up to your water heater so that you can use its water in an emergency. It is a good idea to turn off the electrical breaker or turn off the pilot light first.
13. Plumbers may not always be available so learn minor plumbing repairs yourself. When the water came back on, one of our toilets failed, probably due to the backflow of gunk. Repairs were easy with a backup tank repair kit.
14. Get to know which neighbors have what home repair and handyman skills. Let them know about your own skill set so that there is reciprocity and you can help each other out when something goes wrong and needs fixing. Everyone knows how to do something, right?
15. Keep basic tools on hand, including shovels, axes, saws, hatchets, and other manly-man items. Just because you are a woman does not mean you should not have basic tools!
16. Maintain a good sense of humor. Treat the experience as a learning experience as well as a grand adventure in self-reliance.
The Final Word
Regardless of how much you drill for disruptive events, having something happen for real will open your eyes to considerations that were unplanned. With camping, backpacking, and boating, you know in advance you will not have running water and can plan accordingly.
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on January 18, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.