What to do when the water is off

Like all systems, waterworks can fail and there may be times when the water supply will need to be turned off. As drainage pipes and waterways run under our roads, homes and businesses any faults can be of serious disruption to people in the area – you will have seen drainage companies working in the middle of the road many times before; this is a common sight when drainage pipes burst, break or experience any issues.

In this article, we will look at why your water supply might be shut off, and more importantly what you can and should do while it is off.

Planned Repairs


If a water company needs to carry out repairs to some pipework in your local area, then they may have to switch the water off in order to complete these repairs safely.


Usually, the water company will let you know if this is going to happen by putting a card through your door or paying you a visit, but there are times where it may catch you off guard, particularly if there’s a situation that requires emergency drain repairs. Other ways that water companies may alert people to any downtime is through local radio or their social media channels.


In the case of planned water interruptions, water companies will have a timescale set out where they aim to have the repairs completed and water back up and running within a certain amount of time. If the water company knows the water supply will be cut off for more than four hours, they are required to give 48 hours written notice.

If they do not, you are entitled to £20 compensation. If they do not turn the water supply back on within the time stated in the notice, then you are also entitled to compensation. The compensation is usually £20, and if you do not receive this compensation within 20 days, you are entitled to another £20.

Emergency Repairs

If repairs are required due to an emergency situation, such as a burst water pipe, then the window for repairs is extended to 12 hours from the moment the water company becomes aware of the problem. If the burst pipe is a strategic main pipe, the repair window is 48 hours.

Your water company must take the following steps in such a situation:

  • They must inform you of where you can get an alternative water supply
  • They must inform you of when they plan to restore your water supply
  • They must provide you with a telephone number where you can obtain more information

If the water supply is not restored within the given limits, then you are entitled to £20 compensation for the first 24 hours and £10 for every 24 hour period that follows without water. If the interruption lasts more than 12 hours, then the company should provide bottled water or water tankers for those affected. These tanks are known as bowsers.

If you need constant water supplies for medical reasons, then you should inform your water company. Water companies keep a register of customers who will need extra assistance during any downtime of their water supply.

My water is off: steps to take when the water is off

Bottled drinking water

Is the water off in your area? Depending on the household appliances you have, there are different steps you may need to take in the event that your water supply is cut off.

Storing water

Ensure that you have a supply of drinking water available, in case the water supply is turned off for a significant amount of time.


The cistern will likely be full when the water is turned off, so a few small flushes should be possible. For repeated use, a bucket of water will be required, so ensure you have enough of a backup water supply to fill it.  


If you have a combi-boiler, you can use your heating, but do not use any hot water from the taps.

Cold water storage tank and hot water cylinder

If you have a heating system which uses these components, and your cold water storage tank is full at the time of the water being turned off, it is still safe to use your central heating, although you should avoid using your hot water. There may be a limited amount of hot water available from your storage tank, but you may completely use up your water supply if you opt for it. If your storage tank has run dry, do not use your central heating. This could cause your hot water cylinder to collapse.

Do I use my appliances if my water is off?

Do not use any washing machine, dishwasher or in-built water dispensers in your fridge while the water is off. Avoid using your immersion heater, as it can burn out if it is not completely covered by water.

Being without water can be inconvenient at the best of times, no matter how much notice you are given. However, by preparing adequately and taking necessary precautions, the downtime of your water supply will pass before you know it.

Express Drainage Solutions are the leading providers of domestic and commercial drainage services for customers throughout London and Greater London. For more information on water outage and possible solutions, please get in touch with us today and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Want more information?Contact us today on 020 8979 5444

EDS unblocked and repaired over 20,000 drains last year for the residents and businesses of London.

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