Water Safety during a Water Shortage or Flood in the UK

See also Shopping List during a Water Shortage.

A water shortage may be caused by drought or, ironically, flooding, notably if the pumping station or filtering station machinery becomes flooded.

During a water shortage, such as low tap water pressure, mains water pollution or a total mains water cut, you should label the different types of water available to you, and learn the different safe uses to which these types are suitable and unsuitable. These guidelines were written from a British domestic common-sense point of view, and have not been checked by a health professional nor scientist.

Babies, the elderly and invalids are particularly prone to dehydration. Ensure they get frequent opportunities to drink. Use cooled boiled clear water if no drinking water is available.

Flood water is sewerage:

This document splits emergency water supplies into three types: Drinking Water, Clear Water and Waste Water. These are not official classifications.

Label your water containers and ensure all your family members understand what these categories mean. Simplify the labelling for younger children - for instance, tell younger children that they can only drink out of their own special bottle that has their name on it, and that they must come to you to get their bottle refilled.

"Drinking Water"

This is water that:

Note that you will probably still be advised to boil bowser water before drinking. This is because the government cannot guarantee that the container you are using is clean, nor can they guarantee that someone hasn't vandalised or polluted the tank. Bowser water is safe to drink when it arrives in the tank. If you have a clean container and don't have hoardes of local chavs vandalising everything they can lay their hands on, you can drink bowser water without boiling it first.

You SHOULD use drinking water for:

You should NOT use drinking water for:

"Clear Water"

This is water that:

You SHOULD use clear water for:

You CAN in an emergency use clear water for:

You should NOT use clear water for:

"Waste Water"

This is water that:

You SHOULD use waste water for:

You may need to filter your waste water to remove chunks of dirt, leaves and other gunk. If you don't have a collander or sieve, use old clothing. Do not use the same collander or sieve for food again.

You should NOT use waste water for:

General water use

During a water shortage, you should NOT use water at all for:

Driving through Floods

Do not attempt to drive through floodwater unless:

  • You can see tarmac the other side. For instance, don't enter water that goes round a blind bend.
  • You know the depth of the water. This usually comes down to familiarity with the road and being able to spot roadside items such as signposts or fencing that gives you a clear indication of the depth. Wait and watch other vehicles, learn from their mistakes. Don't be bullied into going through a flood before you are ready; pull over and allow them to overtake and get stuck first.
  • You know where the air intake is on your car, and that it is higher than where the water will splash. If you have a downward-facing air intake at the bottom of your engine, do not enter water at all. If you do not know where the air intake is on your car, do not enter floodwater any deeper than 10cm.

    When you're ready:

  • Turn on your windscreen wipers before entering the water.
  • Open your window slightly. If your car sinks or is dragged away in undercurrents, you will not be able to break the window and get out, if it is closed and holding back the water pressure.
  • Enter the water at a slow but steady pace in 1st or 2nd gear, keeping the revs constantly high. You need lots of revs to ensure any water that enters your exhaust pipe is quickly blown back out again.
  • 4x4 or difflock mode will not help you get through the water, but it will stop you slipping on the wet ground underneath.
  • Test your brakes shortly after exiting the water. Firstly it is better to find out that your brakes no longer work before you build up speed, and secondly it helps squeeze any water out of your brake pads.

    What is boiling?

    Boiling is where the water has been heated up to a point where large bubbles cause it to violently shake and give off clouds of steam. You can stop heating it up once this happens, you will not make it cleaner by heating it for longer, and eventually you will loose all the water as it turns to steam.

    Modern electric kettles should automatically switch off when the water has boiled. Stove kettles, such as camping kettles for gas stoves, can be purchased with a whistling spout, that emits a long piercing whistle when the water has boiled. Remember to remove or unclip the whistle before attempting to pour the water.

    Do not leave boiling water unattended. Unattended stove kettles may run dry and potentially explode. Do not allow young children to come near boiling water or steam. Do not allow young children to play with kettles or stoves. Boiling water or steam may scald skin permanently; wash scalds with large volumes of cold clear water and seek medical attention.

    Boiling is NOT:

    Boiled water is too hot for young children or babies to drink until it has cooled to room temperature - cooling may take thirty minutes or longer after boiling. If it feels warm when you dab it on your elbow, it is too hot. Ensure you use the water within 3 hours of boiling, or 2 days if kept in a sealed container in the fridge.

    Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2007-07-25

    Top - More Tips Articles - Article Index -