7 lessons learned from living without running water

living without water

Last week we had a leak in our water main. We heard water running through a wall downstairs on Monday morning. Once we verified water was not turned on inside the house we went outside to investigate. We found a puddle of water on top of our grass where the water main goes into the house. Judging by the sound of the water flowing and the pooling water outside we concluded it was probably a large leak. We didn’t want the water to do any further damage it might have already caused and we didn’t want to pay for water we aren’t using. We decided to turn off the water to our house.

Unfortunately, that day all my kids were home from school. In an effort to conserve water and make the day fun for them without water we were gone most of the day. Before we left our last fun spot we all stopped by the bathroom for a last flush and washing of hands under running water.

While I recognize we were voluntarily living without running water we did learn some valuable lessons.

Tip #1 – If you have the luxury, prepare. Prior to turning off your running water fill up some buckets and large containers of water. Place at least one container in each bathroom. This will be used for flushing your toilet. Fill water pitchers or even better a 5 gallon water jug and keep it in the kitchen for cooking, cleaning, drinking.

Tip #2 – Bathroom use. The first thing you think of when you know you will not have any more running water is how will we use the bathroom? The saying is true, yellow is mellow, brown goes down. This is one time when it is ok not to flush for just “water” as one of my girls says. When you do need to flush you will have enough water in the tank for one flush. For additional flushes your reserved buckets of water will come in handy. All you do is pour water from the bucket into the toilet bowl. Pretty soon the toilet bowl will drain down the pipes as usual. That is when you stop pouring in water and conserve the rest for the next flush. You can fill the reserve tank in the toilet, but if you forget you don’t have water and flush when you didn’t need to there goes all that water.

Tip #3 – Washing your hands. You still want to be germ conscious without water. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer are your best friends. We put hand sanitizer in each bathroom and baby wipes in other places like the kitchen. Prior to eating we passed around the baby wipes to wash up.  We went through a lot of baby wipes!

Tip #4 – Make wise choices, conserve water.  I have two little ones who seem to be sticky all the time. Be wise in what types of snacks you have and what types of activities you will be doing. If they require a lot of water to clean up now probably isn’t the best time for those.

Tip #5 – Cooking. Deciding on what we were having for dinner started with how much water is required in the recipe and how much clean up is required. I did have a weeks menu planned but that was thrown out the window. Most of those meals had too much prep work which would have resulted in a lot of dishes and a lot of water. We had simple meals, but no one was hungry.

Tip #6 – Paper products are your friends. While it may not be environmentally friendly we used mainly paper prodects because clean up doesn’t require water. We put our names on a cup and used it for the day so we wouldn’t waste as much.

Tip #7 – Water is necessary. As much as I tried to conserve what we had by making wise choices I learned that water is necessary for every day life.

Now for a couple funny stories from our adventure!

We were lucky that we were able to turn our water on and off as needed. We tried to keep it off. We turned it on to shower and refill buckets once a day. That was something to be seen. We didn’t want the water to be turned on for very long so we had a plan and amazing it was executed well by everyone! We had a family meeting and told everyone we were going to turn the water on. We would give them 5 minutes to get everything gathered for their showers and in place. (We assigned them a bathroom and used all showers at once.) When the water went on they were to take a fast shower, wrap their towel around themselves, exit the bathroom and get dressed in their room so the next person can jump in. They were to flush the toilet in their bathroom and refill the bucket when all showers in that bathroom were done. After my shower I didn’t even brush out my hair I just ran to the kitchen and filled up the 5 gallon water jug then did as many dishes by hand as I could before the water was turned off again. We became pretty good at this. In 10-15 minutes we accomplished a lot!

We had a large cup of water in the kids bathroom for them to brush their teeth and take a drink. Each day I asked if they needed to refill the cup and they said no. After a day I was so confused. I was helping the little man brush his teeth with 2 of my girls. When in horror I saw them dip their toothbrushes into the cup, instead of pouring the water onto their toothbrushes. Yuck! Little Man already took a drink from that cup, I’m sure all the girls did too at some point. I dumped out the water and got rid of the cup. We started again with a fresh cup, fresh water and more detailed instructions.

My kids didn’t find this too much of an inconvenience. In fact, one of my girls said I like not having water- we don’t have to do our jobs!


I am a mom to Five Little Chefs who love to cook and create anything with their hands. Watching over 10 additional hands keeps me busy but is so much fun! We laugh and cry everyday, but then want to do it again the next day. That is how we know we are enjoying life!

3 Replies to "7 lessons learned from living without running water"

  • comment-avatar
    Christine from SoDomesticallyChallenged February 4, 2015 (6:51 pm)

    Wow! Great post. Must have been weird not having water. These are all really great tips to ready for a possible outage if a big storm is coming. 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    kerihouchin February 6, 2015 (3:39 pm)

    Being prepared makes a huge difference! We’ve had our water suddenly turned off with little notice for city maintenance more than once. Now I keep a few gallons of water in the pantry, just in case.

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