If there's one thing every prepper knows it’s that disaster can strike at any moment. This can lead to a disruption of your lifestyle or a variety of inconveniences like a water shortage, or for the sake of this article, it's no running water and/or water contamination. Any prepper should be equipped with the knowledge necessary to survive a water emergency or a situation where there's no running water.

Several occurrences can lead to water contamination or no running water. For instance, a blizzard could freeze pipes, an earthquake could burst pipes, or flooding can cause water reservoirs to be contaminated. In fact, random events like a poorly planned construction or an improperly maintained or old rusted pipe could burst and leave you and your family with no running water for an extended period of time.

Types of No-Water Emergencies

Here are some types of water outage situations and their possible causes:

~Broken Pipe

~A broken pipe is the last thing anybody wants to deal with. Broken pipes can happen for a variety of reasons, from aging infrastructure and extreme weather conditions to accidental damage from trying to repair a leaking pipe to a landscape project gone wrong. When a pipe bursts or a water line is compromised, the consequences can be severe. Not only do you lose access to clean, running water, but the potential for water damage to your home or property may also be a serious concern. Nevertheless, that period where you may not have access to running water because of a broken pipe can be a real pain.

~Contaminated Water

~With industries popping up like convenience stores, it's no wonder that water contamination is more common than it ever was. Chemical spills, sewage backups, and other forms of water pollution can render municipal and residential water supplies unsafe for consumption. In these situations, even if the taps are still running clear, the water may be contaminated and unfit for drinking, cooking, or hygiene purposes.

~In fact, it's been estimated that a whopping 200 million Americans have their tap water contaminated with a mixture of PFOA and PFOS ( Perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid). These contaminants can lead to serious illnesses if ingested. That's why it's usually advised that people avoid using their tap water for a certain period of time after an alert is made.

~Frozen Water

~Frozen pipes are a common issue that can occur during the colder months, especially in regions with harsh winters. When the temperature drops below freezing, the water inside your pipes can freeze, causing the pipe to expand and potentially burst. This can lead to significant water damage, flooding, and the loss of a critical resource - running water. Some factors that can cause frozen pipes are pipes being exposed to the cold elements, even rapid temperature drops, lack of insulation around the pipes, or even power outages, where heat is no longer available.

No items found.
All images were either produced by or licensed to Prepper Life® - All Rights Reserved

How to Survive without Clean or Running Water

While extended water outages or a lack of access to clean running water is not as large of a problem in first world countries, like the U.S., it’s still not impossible, think Flint, Michigan. The good news is that if it does happen, it generally lasts only for a few hours to a few days, maybe a few weeks for severely damaged locations. Here are some tips to survive without running/clean water for several days.

~Stock Up On Bottled or Jugged Water

~The number one motto every prepper should follow is to always expect the unexpected. The number 1 rule of being prepared is to have stockpiles. This should include a stock of bottled water and/or a way to purify contaminated water.

~Water bottles, jugs of water, etc are all great ways to preserve safe drinking water. The recommended amount of water to have on hand for emergencies is at least 1 gallon per person per day. This includes water for drinking, cooking, and basic hygiene. For a family of 4 for example, that means a minimum of 28 gallons of water per week.

~Have an Alternate Water Source (if applicable)

~If plan A fails, a prepper should always have a plan B or even C, a survivalist will likely have plans through Z. An alternate water source can last you for days or even weeks. Here are some examples:


~~If you have the means and resources, drilling a well can provide a reliable source of groundwater. This can be a more involved and costly process, but it can offer a consistent supply of water that is often less susceptible to contamination than surface water sources. Keep in mind that well construction and maintenance can be complex, so it’s advisable to consult with a professional if you’re considering this option. Additionally, you’ll need to have a plan in place for powering and accessing the well, as traditional electric-powered pumps may not be an option in an off-grid or power outage setting.

~~Rainwater Collection Barrels

~~Collecting and storing rainwater is one of the most accessible and sustainable methods of obtaining water off-grid. By setting up a simple rainwater harvesting system, you can capture precipitation and store it for later use. This can involve anything from a basic barrel or cistern to a more sophisticated, large-scale system that also purifies the water for potable needs.

~~To maximize the effectiveness of your rainwater harvesting, it is important to ensure that your collection surfaces, such as roofs, are clean and free of debris. You’ll also need to have a way to filter and purify the water before use, as rainwater may contain contaminants. Most importantly collecting rainwater is free. Harvest your rainwater by following these guidelines and you can have water that can last you over a month.

~~Local Freshwater Source

~~Depending on your location, you may have access to natural water sources, such as streams, rivers, lakes, or ponds. While these can be excellent sources of water, it’s crucial to treat and purify the water before consumption to remove any potential pathogens or impurities. This can be done through a variety of methods, using a water filter, or employing chemical treatment like chlorine or iodine tablets. Another great example of cleansing your water is to boil your water.

~~It’s also important to consider the potential for seasonal fluctuations in water levels or if it freezes over during winter, and having a plan in place to adapt to changing conditions.

~~Filled Bathtub/Sinks

~~When faced with a potential water crisis like during a hurricane, it’s important to implement water conservation techniques to maximize the longevity of drinkable/useable water. For instance plugging up tubs and sinks to allow for them to be filled prior to the storm will ensure you have adequate water even if your stored water runs out. Bathtubs aren't just for soaking in; and if you have multiple bathrooms this means more bathtubs and sinks to fill and more access to water.

~~Your Own Back Stock of Tap Water / Water Cistern (in food/water safe containers)

~~Once you’ve established reliable sources of water, the next step is to focus on storage and conservation. Proper water storage is crucial to ensure that you have consistent supply, even during periods of scarcity or disruption. You will want to invest in high-quality water storage containers, such as food-grade barrels, tanks, or jerry cans. These should be kept in a cool, dark place to minimize the growth of algae and bacteria. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of container sizes to accommodate different needs, from daily drinking water to water for household tasks like bathing or cooking.

~Keep Several Purification Methods Available

~Water purification and how to purify water is a skill that everyone should have. As a prepper, you should always have more than one method of purifying water as well as the tools needed for the job.


~~Products like chlorine, bleach or iodine tablets, and water purification drops can be added to water to kill microorganisms. Follow the instructions very carefully, as the proper dosage is important for effectiveness and safety. You want to make sure you do not add too little or not enough.

~~Boiling Method

~~Boiling water is one of the simplest and most reliable ways to kill pathogens. Bring the water to a rolling boil and let it continue boiling for at least 1 minute ( or 3 minutes at higher altitudes) to ensure complete purity.

~~Multimedia Filters

~~Even boiling, as effective as it is, isn't always enough to filter particles away from water. Multimedia water filters, such as those that use activated carbon and charcoal or  reverse osmosis technology, can remove a wide range of contaminants, including heavy metals, chemicals, particles and microorganisms. Choose a filter system that is appropriate for your water source and your specific purification needs.


~~LifeStraw is a modern product/method of purifying water. It can filter up to 4000 liters of water which can last a single person for up to three years. It gets rid of water contaminants and provides you with safe drinking water, straight from the source.

~~Liquid Chlorine/Bleach

~~Using liquid chlorine or bleach is another way of purifying water that is mildly contaminated or has been sitting around for a long time.

~~It's worth noting that you must use chlorine or bleach products that are suitable for this purpose as your regular household bleach might cause serious health problems.

~~Desalinator (for those who live by the ocean)

~~Ocean water is not consumable, but you can make it consumable with a desalinator. A desalinator uses reverse osmosis technology to separate water molecules from seawater. Water from the ocean is passed through thousands of tightly-wrapped, semi-permeable membranes under high pressure. Smaller water molecules are allowed to pass through, leaving salt and other impurities behind.

~Know How You Will Use Each Water Source

~Now that you know how to preserve water, you should also know how to best use each water source. A great way to practice water conservation is by participating in the no water challenge with your family.

~Here are some other useful tips to follow:


~~Your body cannot live without water and try as you might to conserve water, you and your family still need to drink water to survive. The best way to ensure you're staying hydrated and conserving water is by adhering to a strict daily water intake. You can do this by allocating water with water bottles or jugs. For a more strict guideline you can mark the space the drinker is allowed to drink to with a marker, tape or string.


~~Just because you're trying to conserve water doesn't mean you should neglect your surroundings. Stocking up on disinfecting wipes and sanitizing sprays can be a game-changer when running water is scarce. Wipes can be used for quick cleanups, and spot cleaning. Sanitizing sprays, such as those containing alcohol or other disinfectants, can be used to clean surfaces. These convenient products can help you maintain a basic level of cleanliness and hygiene when traditional cleaning methods are not an option.


~~Maintaining personal hygiene and proper sanitation is crucial when living without running water. This can be a significant challenge, but with the right strategies, you can ensure good health and prevent the spread of disease. In the absence of a traditional shower or bathtub, you can use a variety of methods for bathing, such as sponge baths by using a basin or bucket of water, outdoor showers using a solar-powered or gravity-fed system, or even waterless cleaning products like baby wipes or dry shampoo. Remember to conserve water by minimizing the amount used for each cleaning session and reusing greywater where possible, like to water plants.

~~Non-Potable Uses

~~The first step in effectively using non-potable water is to assess your current water situation. This means taking inventory of water sources available to you, as well as understanding the quality and potential uses of each source. Next, assess the quality of the water available to you. Not all non-potable water sources are suitable for the same uses, so it’s important to understand the potential contaminants and limitations of each source.

~~With a clear understanding of your water situation and priorities, you can now explore the various non-potable water uses that can help you thrive in the absence of running water. Non-potable water is collected, treated, and used for non-drinking purposes, such as toilet flushing, clothes washing, etc.

No items found.
All images were either produced by or licensed to Prepper Life® - All Rights Reserved

Ways to Conserve Water Usage

~Use Paper & Plastic Utensils

~Nobody likes doing the dishes, even more so when there's no running water. Paper and plastic utensils offer several distinct advantages. They are lightweight, portable, and easy to use. Paper and plastic utensils provide a clean and sanitary option for handling and consuming food, reducing the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of germs.

~When you use disposable utensils, it can significantly reduce the amount of water needed for dishwashing, making them an eco-friendly choice when water resources are scarce. On the plus side using plastic or paper utensils is an easy clean up after dinner.

~Know how you Will Stay Clean

~When there's no water you must find other ways to stay clean like:

  • Sponge Baths
  • Camping Shower (a.k.a gravity fed systems)
  • Decreasing Activity
  • Reuse Clothing (if possible)

~Keep a Large Stockpot & Buckets on Hand

~During times where access to running water can no longer be taken for granted, the importance of having a large stockpot and buckets on hand cannot be overstated. These versatile tools can be the difference between surviving and thriving in a wide range of emergency situations, from natural disasters to power outages and remote living. By investing in a high-quality stockpot and a set of sturdy buckets, you’ll be well on your way to building a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that ensures your access to clean, reliable water. Remember to properly store and maintain these items and be prepared for them to be used when need arises. Don’t wait until it's too late to start building your water-resilient toolkit.

~Have Quick Meals/Freezer Meals/Canned Food Ready

~Nobody is going to be thinking of cooking a turkey dinner during an emergency, but you still need nourishment. In the face of unexpected emergencies or survival situations, having a reliable stash of quicks, easy-to-prepare meals can be a true lifesaver. By mastering the art of meal prep for survival with no running water, you’ll be able to maintain your energy, health, and overall well-being, even in the most challenging circumstances. The key to success lies in a well-rounded approach that combines shelf-stable ingredients, freezer meals, and canned foods. By investing the time and effort to build a comprehensive pantry and hone your meal prep skills, you’ll be able to weather any storm with confidence and resilience.

~Use Hand Sanitizer

~Hand sanitizer is as a powerful tool for maintaining good hygiene and preventing the spread of illness when there is no running water available. By understanding the science behind hand sanitizers, learning how to use it effectively, and recognizing its limitations, you can stay clean, healthy, and safe. Remember, hand sanitizer is not a substitute for regular handwashing with soap and water, but it can be an invaluable complement to your hygiene routine with no running water.

~Emergency Cases

~When it comes to an emergency, you can use disinfectant wipes, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, saltwater, hot water and clean clothes, towels, or gauze, depending on the emergency. If it is a minor injury using some gauze, bandages and some warm water will suffice. However, if a major injury occurs, having hot water, alcohol, clean towels, and clean tools will come in extremely handy. The water used for emergency cases should be clean and purified, whether from bottled water or purified in a different way, ensuring you have a storage of water to be used for injuries would be a good addition to your survival preps.

No items found.
All images were either produced by or licensed to Prepper Life® - All Rights Reserved

Extreme Use Cases: Hidden/Forgotten Water Source

~Water Heater

~Most people don’t think about their water heater. It does its job and is situated in a corner of the garage or basement and no one thinks twice about it. Well this should be until a situation where there is no running water occurs, then the prepper in you should remember that your water heater should still have some water in it.

~Using this source could significantly increase your water storage by 40+ gallons. You have to start by properly draining your water heater, just remember when draining, be cautious the water may still be hot.

~Use Your Pool Water

~Having a swimming pool on your property can be a true lifesaver. By learning how to properly treat, purify, and conserve your pool water, you can ensure your family has the essential resources they need to weather the storm.

~Proper preparation and vigilance are key. Regularly test your pool water, implement treatment and purification methods. With the right source that could mean the difference between survival and disaster. When you find yourself in an emergency situation with no running water, don’t panic- look to your pool as a hidden oasis that can provide the hydration, sanitation and sustenance your family needs to get through the crisis. With a little know-how and a lot of resourcefulness, you can transform your backyard pool into a vital lifeline during the toughest of times.

~Bonus: Oxygenate Flat Tasting Water

~While surviving without running water can be a challenge, you can oxygenate and improve the taste of your drinking water. By using agitation, aeration, mechanical devices, by adding a very small concentration of hydrogen peroxide, or by using filters, you can revive flat-tasting water and ensure you stay hydrated and comfortable. Also experiment with different methods, store the oxygenated water properly, and always prioritize safety when dealing with any chemicals or unfamiliar techniques. With a little creativity and persistence, you can maintain a reliable supply of palatable drinking water, even when faced with the lack of a running water source.