Shopping List during a Water Shortage in the UK

See also Water Safety during a Water Shortage or Flood.

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, you will have to minimise the amount of water you use for cooking and washing, and you may have to travel some distance to get fresh water from a stand pipe or a bowser (water tanker).

The following items will be useful during a water shortage:


  • An analogue FM/AM-MW radio with analogue tuning (DAB and analogue-with-digital-display radios eat batteries at a rate of knots, fully analogue radios can last for months), plus at least three sets of batteries, plus a label with the frequencies of the BBC local radio station (in Gloucestershire, this is 104.7FM and 1413AM-MW). The importance of this cannot be underestimated! Your BBC local radio station will carry announcements of water safety and locations of safe water.

  • A torch that uses the same sized batteries as the radio. Flooding may cause the local electricity substation to be shut off.

    Water Containers

  • A 10 or 20 litre water carrier (but not so big that your can't carry it full from wherever the tanker is), you can get these from camping shops. Two 10 litre carriers are better than one 20 litre carrier.

  • Buckets, as clean as possible.

  • A funnel, for decanting water from larger container into smaller bottle.

  • A barrel with a tap (home brew kit perhaps?).

  • Large plastic bottles, as clean as possible. Empty mineral water bottles are ideal.

  • A children's inflatable plastic swimming pool, for catching rainwater.


  • Alcohol-based anti-bacterial hand gel wash, usually 50p in pocket-sized mini-bottles, allows you to wash face/hands with no need for water nor towel.

  • Wet wipes, although in my experience the alcohol-based hand gel is more useful.

  • Diaoralite rehydration sachets, there WILL be an outbreak of the runs sooner or later.

  • Antiseptic disinfectant (eg. TCP or Detol), for cleaning minor cuts and sores, and for cleaning water containers.

  • Plasters, for preventing minor cuts or sores from coming into contact with dirty water.

  • Cheap thin bleach, for cleaning toilets and cooking surfaces.

  • Toilet roll and lots of medium-sized plastic bags or old shopping bags (for bagging up poo, the loo won't flush).

    Food, Drink and Cooking

  • As much bottled mineral/spring water as you can get.

  • Tinned soup, baked beans, spaghetti, anything tinned that can be eaten "as is" without need for rehydration (pot noodle, for instance, is useless since you will have no water with which to heat it).

  • A spare tin opener.

  • Biscuits, museli bars, cake bars (NOT crisps since their high salt leads to dehydration).

  • Longlife UHT milk (not powder, you'll have nothing to rehydrate it with).

  • A camping stove with spare cylinders, lighter and a whistling kettle. The electric may go out if the local substation floods.

  • Cheap soft drinks ready-to-drink, own brand lemonade and so forth, as many as you can. Don't go for too many caffinated drinks (cola) as you will already be stressed and having trouble sleeping. Don't get concentrated squash, as you will have no water to dilute it with.

  • Tea bags, small packet (simply for reassuring Englishness, rather than any practical use).

  • Cans or small bottles of beer, nothing too strong but it is both a reliable source of uncontaminated liquid and it will help you sleep under stress.

    Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2007-07-25

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