Frozen Water Pipes: A Snapshot of Life Without Running Water

This morning started out like any other morning. Titus came toddling into our room and climbed onto the bed at the crack of dawn, ready for breakfast. The dog whimpered and whined, needing to go outside to potty. Jerry snored soundly beside me. Everything seemed normal.

But when I stumbled into the bathroom and turned the shower on… nothing happened.


I went into the kitchen and tried the water at the sink. Nothing.

Jerry! The pipes are frozen!

We knew it was going to be cold overnight, but dang, not that cold!

It’s tricky going about the day with no running water!

When I went to make breakfast, I realized that we were out of milk to drink. Normally we would have just had water, but seeing as that wasn’t an option, I broke out a sacred jar of home canned grape juice. The kids were very excited.

Oh, why didn’t I start the dishwasher before I went to bed?? I wondered to myself as I glanced into the washer packed full of dirty dishes.

Baby Xia woke up soon after everyone else. Obviously, the first thing I do with her in the morning is change her diaper. I kicked myself for not having any of her baby wipes solution made up. With no running water, and no wipes made, how was I supposed to clean her little tushy?

Then I remembered a box of wet bathroom wipes I’d received in the mail a while back as a free sample. I’d stashed them in our emergency survival stuff. Surely this counted as an emergency.

I was so thankful to have those wipes!!

But now to wash my hands. With no water.

There was a container of SaniHands Wet wipes underneath the bathroom sink. Saved again.

At breakfast Jerry made the announcement that nobody was to flush the toilets unless it was a number 2. Too late. They’d both been flushed.

The wet wipes came in handy again to clean grubby hands and faces after breakfast.

I was glad to have water in a spray bottle to brush the girl’s hair. No brushing our teeth though.

Normally I start a load of laundry as soon as we are done eating. And boy, I’m telling ya, those cloth diapers were in desperate need of a washing. But there it was again… the whole running water thing. Ugh. I was really wishing for a pack of Pampers. I wondered if I’d have to boil rain water and wash the dirty diapers in a bucket with a plunger.

Jerry went outside with a couple of buckets and filled them with water from our rain water collector. Amazingly, only the top of the 275 gallon container was frozen. The water in the bottom was still flowing, though the hose connected to it did start to freeze up after Jerry had used it. But at least we had about 4 gallons of water now.

It wasn’t purified water, so I filled my biggest pot and began boiling it on the stove. Jerry decided that it would be a good idea to work on putting together our Homemade Berkey Water Filter today. That would have been nice to have ready to use.

It was eye opening to experience all of the little ways we were not prepared, and to note the few things we were glad to have on hand. I was aggravated at myself for leaving so many things undone the day before. Fortunately for us, about half way through the day the water thawed out and came back on. We all jumped for joy.

Once again, I’m thankful for the experience. Being caught unprepared helped to bring to light some things we need to add to our emergency supplies. We really do need to find where the pipes froze as well, and wrap them better so this doesn’t happen again. They are calling for freezing temps again tonight.

But tonight, we’ll leave the water running!

17 thoughts on “Frozen Water Pipes: A Snapshot of Life Without Running Water”

  1. Sorry but this post makes me laugh not at anyone post but at myself. I have been homesteading for 4yrs and every year we have at least one day with out running water, that was until this past winter. New Year Eve we woke with no water, we expected it so were prepared for it, but not for how long I would be without it. Let’s just say that we have the pipes and my loving and dear hubby is going under the house tomorrow morning to start REPLUMBING my entire house. Honestly I have gotten very used to bringing buckets in and boiling this and that. I even dread having to relight my waterheater since I have been able to make a 7lb tank of proane last 2+ months for just cooking (no pilot light). Now I am praying supper hard that this will be my last time freezing but I know know I can go 6months just about with no running water. If someone would have told me I would have done this 6yrs ago I would have laughed at them.

    Gotta love the trials homesteading brings 🙂

  2. don’t forget you can put some bleach in that 275 gallon water tank. Basically, it shocks the water and kills all the bacteria. It is short lived. After about 3 days, the bleach has broken down and is gone. Don’t need much for the tank, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup? I put it in our cistern all the time (when I remember). There is a formula for how much you put in but I can’t remember right now. Been doing it so long I just eyeball the cistern and know about how much to put in.

  3. Kendra are you only using your new wood stove to heat your home with? Just wondering because my in-laws heat their house with only a wood stove and they have problems with their pipes freezing in their bathroom and kitchen. Maybe try leaving your cabinet doors open or like you said leaving the water drip a bit. I know that is one negative of heating with a wood stove.

  4. i thought it was cold where we are… but not that cold! you are such a trooper. glad that it thawed fairly quickly and i hope it didn’t do any damage to your pipes.

  5. My mother used to leave a small dribble of water coming from one faucet before bed (more than drops but certainly much less than running)and just that small amount kept our pipes from freezing (as long as she knew the cold was coming).

    Good luck!

  6. Glad it didn’t last long! Don’t forget, it’s always a good idea to keep at least several cases of bottled water on hand for emergencies, even if it’s not something you normally use. We too have well water, and I used to keep the gallon jugs on hand for emergencies, but after having four or five spring leaks in the bottoms for no reason, I’ve quit using the jugs and just buy up on the cases of bottled water when it goes on sale. Around here you can get it for $2.99/24 pk. of store brands very often. It’s worth keeping some around.

  7. Question for you – do you boil the rainwater before you run it through the Berkey or no? I have a Berkey but haven’t had to try it with rainwater yet. 🙂

  8. My bathtub drain likes to freeze after a couple of nights of really cold temps. My plumber told me to buy a $5 jug of RV waterline antifreeze and pour a dollop down the drain after our evening baths and such. He said that would save me from having to call him every time it happens and as long as I do this it shouldn’t happen anymore. Totally works! And my jug has taken me through 2 winters so far and I’ve got no worries of running out soon. Another little tidbit to put in the back of your mind. Enjoy!

  9. Blow dryer on the pipes where it froze will thaw them out and get you back in business. Letting the water drip in at least one of the sinks is a good temporary measure as well. A gallon or two of potable water stored under one of the sinks and in each vehicle emergency kit might be a good idea too.

  10. When we were kids living in Maine we did not have running water. The running was done by our feet 🙂 We had a small shelter over the dug well and a stone attached to a rope (guess what that was for). There was of course chunks of ice in the bucket. My mother kept a large basin in the kitchen for water. We had an outhouse, but my Dad was gracious enough to allow my Mom and us kids to use a “chamber pot” on the coldest days which he would then run out and empty in the outhouse.

    After the first winter we did get electricity.

    I sometimes wonder how my Mom, a city kid, ever made it up there in the backwoods of Maine. She was a brave soul. Mr. D and I now live in a camper about the same living space as the trailer that my family had in Maine. We went without water, phone, and electricity the first winter living here and I thought lots about my Mom. How did she do it all those years and she had two young kids to deal with as well.

    We COULD do without those things, but I sure don’t desire to. If we had to be without we’d all learn to adapt to that change. It certainly would involve a lot more work and planning ahead.

    I can honestly say those years in Maine were some of the best we had as a family. We did so many things together. There were some advantages like living in an apple orchard, having a huge vegetable garden, being able to wander as far into the woods as we wanted, raking wild blueberries. I try not to romanticize too much. I guess as a child I don’t remember all the other stuff, like the blackflies, mingies, and mosquitoes, and of course all the hard work it was for Mom to wash and iron our clothes, can up food for winter, and cook up all the game my dad brought home for us to eat. I don’t remember those things ’cause I don’t remember my folks ever complaining about all the hard work. We all had stuff to do, but they made it fun.

    Your kids will also remember all the fun times too. It is lots of work, but working together as a family is the best.

    Hope you can get those pipes fixed so you don’t have frozen pipes again.

  11. Hi Kendra,
    We live in Vermont and I can totally sympathize with you in the frozen water pipe situation.:)We live in an old brick (not insulated)house.If I do not plan accordingly somtimes our water freezes too.:)I try to remember to start the washing machine before bed and again first thing in the morning.When we know it is going to be cold we run the water in the bathroom for a bit off and on to ward off our bathroom pipes freezing.It sure does make life interesting though.I also realize how much we take for granted…water being at the top of the list.
    So glad that your water is back to working and that it did not break any pipes.We have had that happen too.Nikki

  12. Ughhhhhh… I hate frozen pipes!
    And you are so right – you never realize how much water you use or how often you use it until it’s gone.
    I could live off grid and without electricity for the rest of my life if I had to.
    But I sure wouldn’t like it.

    What I would miss everyday would be my electric well pump and hot water under pressure and on demand.

    When I consider what life would be like having to draw water from my well in buckets or by a hand pump, and then carrying it into the house 2 buckets at a time – it sends shivers up my spine – no kidding.
    Glad you got running water again.

  13. I don’t think that you’re whole tank will freeze solid unless it is bitter cold for a ^ery long time. Like a pond will remain unfrozen under the ice. But the pipe coming out could keep you from easily getting to that water!

    Amazing how much we rely on water actually running out of the pipes. I know we ha^e been in similar fixes …. but ha^e yet to figure out how to keep from suffering through.

    Hope you figure out where the problem is quickly! Not sure how you would go about that.

    Take care!

  14. We just had an unexpected power outage this weekend and learned how unprepared we were. The experience is always a good lesson isn’t it!


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