This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.
Are you prepared in an event of an emergency or situation where you are without water? Here are some tips on how to live with no running water.
How to Live Without Running Water
We’ve had many rough winters in the past decade. When we were living in a camper in a South Dakota winter it was not ideal but we didn’t have much of a choice. Thankfully we are finally in a better situation and we can look back now at what we learned from our experiences.
One of the worst things about our winter in the camper was not having running water for most of it. I never had really thought about it before but now I’ll gladly take no electricity over no running water any day.
Not only was it difficult to keep up with even the most basic household tasks, after a few days without a warm shower being stuck in the house together with the freezing cold wind blowing outside…things start to get a little crazy.
And I don’t know about you but my house gets into total chaos when things don’t get done, laundry starts piling up, dishes start piling up, and people start smelling a bit ripe…
In case you ever had to go through a situation where you have no running water (which I think we should all be prepared to do because you just simply never know, no matter where you live!) here are some tips on how how to live without running water, to make it through until you have water again.
Stock up on bottled water.
This is my number one priority on planning for no water now. Why couldn’t you just melt snow, or get water from somewhere else?
Unless you have a good source of water nearby (that cannot freeze and you are able to drink), it just makes more sense to have a case of water on hand. And personally…I’m not sure I’d want to wait for snow water to melt and heat if I had a fussy toddler waiting for a bath. 🙂
Even though we have a Berkey Water Filter that can clean up any water, we had no way of getting any water to filter! Make sure you have enough water storage for several days for each family member (1 gallon of water per day). I have more on Stockpiling Water here and the different methods it can be done.
We prefer to have a mix of water bottles and 7-gallon water jugs. Remember that you will also want to have water on hand to flush the toilet.
You may also have water access nearby or even in your own yard if you have a cistern. Think about the possibilities!
Have Paper Plates on Hand
Having paper goods on hand is a great idea when you cannot do any dishes unless you want to continuously use your available fresh water.
Many times this winter I was incredibly thankful to have a small stack of disposable plates, paper napkins, plastic cups, and disposable eating utensils on hand that we could toss when we were done with them. Sanity saver!
Paper bowls are great too, in-case you are having soup or if you need to mix something up.
Perfect the art of the sponge bath.
Out of everything that required running water, how to shower without running water was the hardest. I know I missed taking hot showers the most.
When taking a sponge bath is your only option, here are a few things to keep in mind…
- Make sure you always have a stack of fresh, clean washcloths somewhere in your home.
- When they are used, make sure each family member hangs up their washcloth in a different place so they can be reused for the next “bath”.
- Use a soap bar which tends to be easier to wash off than shower gel or other liquid shower cleaning products.
- For little ones…keep some kind of small tub or tote for bathing.
We used a large storage tote and just set it in the tub for our toddler, I don’t even think he knew the difference. For hair washing, we would plug the sink, pour warm water in and use a cup to wash hair.
You can use baby wipes or body cleaning wipes to go without a shower if your power outage is only very temporary. While not an option for everyone, we have one of these Mr. Heater Battery Powered Water Heater Showers. I love it for camping and situations like not running water!
Use Paper Instead of Cloth
If you are a cloth using family (meaning cloth rags, cloth napkins, maybe even cloth toilet paper), temporarily stop using it in favor of using disposable paper products.
Even though we always use rags and cloth napkins in our home, I always keep a supply of paper towels and paper napkins for an occasion like this. You are going to create more garbage, but you aren’t going to create more laundry.
If you didn’t go outside during the day and your clothes are not dirty, fold them up at the end of the day to wear again.
With no way to wash laundry, it’s important to try and not let it pile up too high. If all else fails and you are able to leave home…use the laundry mat.
Have a Large Stockpot on Hand at All Times!
The sentence above deserves an exclamation point because I failed to do it for the first month without water (my stockpot was buried in a moving box!), and I finally just went out and purchased a cheap large stockpot to help.
With a large stockpot, you can boil enough water for several sinkfuls of dirty pots and pans or it can be enough water for a few people to wash their hair. If you don’t have a stockpot, we picked ours up at Walmart for only about $6, buy one!
Collect What Water You Can
Typically, being without running water means you are having some kind of weather emergency. In many cases, you might be able to collect water from outdoors when it’s safe to do so. Run any collected water through a Berkey or a similar filter before using it for drinking or cooking.
- Melt snow in your stockpot.
- Collect rainwater in a barrel or some other plastic containers.
- Gather water from a nearby pond or stream.
You don’t have to use these sources of water for drinking unless you filter and feel comfortable doing so. But you can use them for bathing or another situation where you are going to boil the water first.
Have some easy freezer or canned meals on hand
I never knew when we would have water and when we wouldn’t, so keeping a well-stocked freezer was hard. When cleaning dishes is difficult, you don’t want to dirty up ten bowls to make supper.
Since I didn’t know when we wouldn’t have water, when we did have it, I was a crazy girl in the kitchen making easy meals that I could stick in the freezer, and we could pull out and warm up when we didn’t have water and needed them.
This made life so much easier!
I wrote an entire blog post about Meals To Make Without Electricity.
Additional tip: Here are some great Make Ahead Meals.
Most of all…try and keep your sanity. Having paper plates and water bottles for a while may seem wasteful, but if it’s going to mess with your mind to have piled up dishes and a big mess for a while, go for the sanity saver, trust me!
You never know when the occasion might arise that you may have to go without water for a little while, but like I believe, with every aspect of life, it’s better to be prepared than to be stuck without! It’s better to be able to meet the basic needs of your family than to be ignorant about a situation.
I prefer to look on the bright side of things…dealing without running water for a time makes me more appreciative of the water that I do have. I’ve learned to live with less water and be better prepared to be in an off-grid situation.
More Preparedness Ideas
- Creating a Winter Emergency Survival Kit
- Prepare for a Tornado and Create a Mini DIY Emergency Kit
- How to Prepare for a Blizzard
- Winter Weather Preparedness Tips and Free Printable Checklist
- Disaster Preparedness for Children
- 8 Ways Anyone Can Prepare for a Power Outage
Tip: Get more Preparedness Tips here.
Have you ever had to deal with living without running water? How did you make life more bearable during that time?
Did you find this blog post helpful? Be sure and share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Email using the sharing buttons.
Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to the 100-acre farm and ministry on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This post on How to Live with No Running Water was originally published on Little House Living in May 2014. It has been updated as of February 2023.