Water gone off in my area: Why and what next?

Water gone off in my area: Why and what next?

It can be a bit frustrating to wake up in the morning or come in from work and find you haven’t got any running water. When these things happen, it can be hard to know exactly what to do next. Who do you call? Who can help?

The first and main thing is to not panic. It’s rare that areas in the UK are without water for more than 12 hours, and most problems are fixed even faster than that. In this blog we’ve outlined the steps to follow when you think the water has gone off in your area.

Step 1: Check you have no running water

The first thing to do is to make absolutely sure that you really don’t have any running water. As you do your checks, you’ll be able to figure out whether it’s a mains water issue or a potential problem with your plumbing. Here is what you can do to check you haven’t got any running water:

  • Check all your taps - Go through your house and check every tap to see if they run any water. If your bathroom taps aren’t running but your kitchen tap is, it’s possible you just have a plumbing issue in your house.
  • Ask your neighbours - Give your neighbours a quick call or pop round to see if they’re having similar issues with their water. If your neighbours aren’t having a problem, you can ask them if they had any plumbing work done recently. It might be that they had work done that’s caused a problem with your water supply.
  • Check your stopcock is open - Your stopcock is a valve that lets the water supply into your home. You’ll usually find it under the sink. Make sure the stopcock is turned all the way anticlockwise and turn on your mains tap (usually the cold tap in the kitchen) slowly to see if anything comes through.
  • Check your outside stop valve is open - Stop valves are usually found near your property boundary or in your water metre chamber. They might be in a small drain with a cover with a ‘W’ or ‘water’ on it. Make sure the valve is turned all the way anticlockwise, and go back inside to check the mains tap.
  • Check for frozen pipes - Cold weather and ice can be bad for pipes if they haven’t been well insulated. If you think you might have frozen pipes, you can try to find the blockage and pour hot (not boiling water) onto the pipe to melt the ice and free the blockage.

If you’d like to learn more about your plumbing, you can check out our blog ‘What is a stopcock and how to find it

Step 2: Work out why the water is off in your area

If you still haven’t got any running water and you’re fairly sure it’s a mains issue, it’s time to figure out how much area the outage is covering, and what caused it. There are two main reasons for a water outage in an area: scheduled engineering work, and an emergency (usually something like a burst water main).

Check if the work was planned

The first is pretty easy to check. Most local water authorities will keep a detailed and up-to-date record of any planned engineering work on their website. If the work was expected to affect you directly, they would usually have tried to contact everyone affected well ahead of the planned work. Check your emails and post to see if you’ve missed any warnings from your local water authority.

If you weren’t notified before and the outage doesn’t appear online, it’s possible there’s  an unplanned water outage.

If you think your pipes might have been damaged by storms or bad weather, you might be able to make a claim on your home insurance. For more information, check out our blog ‘Home insurance and storm or weather damage

Check if there is an unplanned water outage

Unplanned water outages are times when something like a burst water main knocks out an area’s water supply. This makes it almost impossible for the water authority to give people living in the area any notice. But, they’re required to get it fixed within 12 hours. If they can’t get it fixed in 12 hours, the water authority will usually provide bottled water to residents if they can.

If you think the water in your area has gone off due to an unplanned outage, it’s worth keeping an eye on the local authority’s website for a few minutes before you start making calls to plumbers and authorities. Most water authorities try to keep their websites very up-to-date, so if they’ve been told about the issue it will likely show up pretty quickly. You can also do a quick search on Twitter and local Facebook groups to see if anyone is posting about not having any water.

Step 3: Tell someone the water is off in your area

If there is nothing showing up on your local water authority’s website and no one on social media is posting about it, it’s possible you’re one of the first people who has noticed an outage. Your best option at this point is to call your local water authority directly and tell them that the water has gone off. You’ll probably have to tell them where you live and when you started having the problem so they can do some checks. If it’s an unplanned water outage they’ll usually get a group of calls at the same time from different people, so don’t be surprised if they already know about the problem.

It’s a good idea to keep an ear out for your phone once you’ve notified the local water authority. If they check the area and find there aren’t any problems, they might call you back to tell you that you might have an internal plumbing problem. At that point it’s a good time to call a local plumber to come and take a look.

If you’re renting and experiencing problems with your plumbing or heating, it can be worth talking to your landlord. Check out our blog ‘How long can a landlord leave you without heating UK?

A few final tips…

Here are the last few things to keep in mind if the water goes off in your area:

  • Most local water authorities are pretty good at keeping their website updated with planned and unplanned water outages. Keep an eye on the website for updates on repairs and when you can expect your water to be turned back on.
  • Checking with your neighbours and people you know in the surrounding area is the quickest way to find out if the water outage is affecting the area or just your house.
  • If you think there’s a burst water main, call the local water authority as soon as possible so that they can send someone out to fix it.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.