A Practical Guide to Life Without Running Water

As a prepper mom, I spend a lot of time planning for emergencies and making sure we have adequate supplies in case there was ever a major disaster. However, I sometimes overlook the reality of how life would change if we were ever forced to rely on our preps. That’s what inspired me to give things a dry run – literally. We turned off the water for 24 hours to see how we would cope. It’s just one day without running water. No big deal, right?

It turns out that a single day without running water turned life upside down for my family. I was shocked because we are preppers! This is the kind of stuff we thrive on. No water? No problem… I have months of water stored in the closet. But using all that water wasn’t quite as easy as I thought. Here are some lessons I learned during our little experiment.

Water is Heavy! 

Toting water back and forth to the kitchen, the bathroom, and to the pets outside was a work out. My arms were sore for days! I never really thought about choosing a water storage location that was convenient and I had stacked all my water supplies in a closet on the back side of my house. If water storage is going to be practical, it also needs to be portable.

We Want What We Can’t Have

On a normal day, my kids would choose juice boxes over water without blinking an eye. However, the minute the water shut off and they couldn’t just turn on the faucet to grab a quick drink, they became water loving monsters! Every 10 minutes, someone was asking for water. It was only 24 hours, but my children reacted like there would never be water available again.

Laundry, Laundry Everywhere! 

I had never really stopped to consider how I would do laundry without running water to power my washing machine.  My typical routine is to do all of our laundry on the weekends, but our experiment happened over the weekend too. I didn’t think about it ahead of time and as a result, everyone was digging through the hamper to find something to wear. I quickly learned that if I was going to have to wash clothes the old fashioned way, I couldn’t do 10 loads in a single day. So now I am going to start washing one load per day to spread it out through the week. That way if we ever lose access to the water supply for a few days, my kids will still have at least a few pairs of clean underwear!

Bathroom Matters 

Water is extremely important in order to deal with bathroom matters. I never realized how often my children frequent the toilet until they couldn’t flush it without calling for mom to haul in a bucket a water. In a long term emergency, flushing the toilets wouldn’t be a possibility so what should we do? My first thought was to dig a hole in the ground outside. But my husband reminded me that it would cause major flies, huge odors, and could pollute ground water supplies. After 20 minutes of debate, we decided that a five gallon bucket and some biodegradable bags were the best option. You can even order a toilet seat cover that fits a bucket so it feels a little more comfortable. As far as all that waste, it makes good compost and fertilizer, but that will definitely be my husband’s department!

Dirty Dishes

With no running water to power my dishwasher, I had to clean up the dinner dishes by hand. In one side of my sink, I poured a gallon of water and added detergent. In the other side, I put another gallon of water for rinsing. This method worked, but by the time I got to the last pan, the water was nasty! It seemed like that dirty water couldn’t possibly be getting my dishes clean. I definitely need to adjust my cooking methods to use less pots and pans when possible. I also learned that I need to increase the amount of water I’m storing for cleaning purposes so that I can dump out the dirty water half way through if it gets really gross.


Since our water experiment only lasted 24 hours, I could have technically skipped baths and let everyone shower in the morning. It was tempting, but I felt like it was cheating. Before bedtime rolled around, I toted water to the bathroom and decided to give it a try. I heated up a half gallon of water on the stove and then poured the hot water in with 1½ gallons of room temperature water.  It was perfectly warm. Two gallons isn’t all that much water, but it was enough for a decent sponge bath. In a real crisis if water supplies were short, we could share bath water. But for our experiment, I dumped the dirty water and used a fresh batch for each member of the family. None of us particularly loved the sponge bath method, so I definitely think investing in a solar shower is a good idea.


The main lesson I learned during our 24 hours without running water is gratitude. We are really spoiled in our culture! Just one day without water had us feeling stressed out, but 780 million people around the world live everyday without access to clean water. We are so blessed to have the luxury of running water and I don’t want to take that for granted again. Could we survive without running water? Yes! But it definitely wouldn’t be easy.

Have you ever tried to live without running water for a full day? I encourage you to try this 24-hour challenge with your own family and leave a comment here to share what you learn. We can all learn how to be better prepared if we think through practical scenarios and adjust our methods accordingly. Will you take the 24-hour challenge?

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About Ms. Prepper

I’m Laura P, aka, Passion Prepper, aka, Storage Prepper! I’ve been homesteading nearly all my life and prepping for the last 6 years. I strongly believe our great country of America was built on self-sufficient families like mine and yours. Politics bores me, learning new stuff, getting outside and living life thrills me.

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