I am well aware that this is quite rare, but how do you normally imply there is no water available either due to some internal piping issues in a bulding or because the whole municipal water system is down?

a. The water is cut off.
b. The water is out. (As we say: "the electricity / power is out.")

PS. I know that we can say: "someone has turned / switched off the water," but here, the lack of water is not due to a deliberate action; but it has happened due to some urban / internal problems.

  • 1
    I think any home service can be described as "out" when it's temporarily and unexpectedly unavailable. The water's out / the power's out / the cable's out all mean that the service stopped functioning unexpectedly, not due to a known deliberate action, and that's expected to resume soon. Dec 14, 2020 at 5:19
  • For which dialect are you speaking @BallpointBen?
    – A-friend
    Dec 14, 2020 at 10:33
  • American English Dec 14, 2020 at 14:56
  • So perhaps this is the way you say it too and either "water" or "electrcity / power" can be out and you think most Americans would immediately underatand it. Do you confirm @BallpointBen?
    – A-friend
    Dec 14, 2020 at 16:24
  • 1
    "We've got coffee, we've got sweetener, but today 's the day the Lord has decided that we've got no water!"
    – Opifex
    Dec 14, 2020 at 16:46

6 Answers 6


To me (southern United States), "out" would be a loss of water service for any reason, while "cut off" means it's specifically been turned off at the service valve for one particular dwelling, almost always for non-payment of the water bill.

In the contexts you specify, I'd say the water is out, but not cut off.


The water is cut off.

For me, that sentence suggests a deliberate action.

Living in the UK, this is such a rare event that I would probably feel the need to be explicit, e.g.

"There's no water coming out of the taps."

If this became a regular occurrence then I would say, "The water's off again."

  • 3
    +1, and often you can hear people go one further and say simply "there's no water" to mean that there is no available water from the taps.
    – user81621
    Dec 14, 2020 at 12:28

I like this question. Annoyingly, it's happened to us a few times recently. I naturally said:

  • The hot water's off.

And I think that if the cold water had also been absent, i.e. no water at all, I would have just said:

  • The water's off.

For some reason, cut off doesn't sound right to me, perhaps because I associate it with power/energy only.

  • 1
    "Being cut off" applies to more than just power. It implies that someone intentionally stopped your access to the resource in question. It would work for water, if you were implying that someone intentionally cut off your water supply.
    – Flater
    Dec 14, 2020 at 12:24
  • Yes, I agree, but I'm talking about my personal associations. Perhaps because people having their electricity cut off was common when and where I was growing up (due to non-payment of bills).
    – legatrix
    Dec 14, 2020 at 13:07
  • 2
    That's sort of my point, the water supply can also be cut off for non-payment.
    – Flater
    Dec 14, 2020 at 13:14
  • No yeah I get it, just saying for me it was always a case of electricity.
    – legatrix
    Dec 14, 2020 at 14:08
  • To my (American) ears, off would suggest a problem with the water itself, like unusual discoloration or odor, as tap water isn't something that is customarily turned on or off. In the first case I'd probably say the water heater is out and the second, simply that there's no water or the water's gone out.
    – choster
    Dec 14, 2020 at 19:17

As a young teen, I remember very distinctly the grating tone of my neighbor's voice, yelling to her kids, "County done cut the water again! Get yer flip flops, we're goin down to the truck stop!"


Source: A search for "how to flush the toilet when" and looking at the language used in the results. It seems like "off" is the most common, but there are some variations:

I would say not working if it's broken. If someone asked for a drink: "Sorry, our water isn't working."

In some cases I might say broken, but you risk having a haha moment because "broken water" is a stage of childbirth. But I might say, "The ---- water is broken again!" to the landlord. I'm also more likely to use this for hot water specifically, "Don't take a shower, our hot water is broken." If you want to be fancy then you can specify what's broken--the pipe or the hot water heater or whatever.

Off has an implication that it was turned off deliberately. Usually a broken pipe will also result in the water being turned off but the water could be turned off for other reasons, too (like if the pipes are being upgraded). If I used this, I would probably be more specific: "Our water is off while the city repairs the pipes."

Cut off means that someone else turned it off outside your control. This has a slight implication that it was turned off for non-payment unless there's some other context explaining why it was cut off.

Out sounds like British English to my (American) ears. I would probably understand it, but I probably wouldn't naturally say it that way.

  • Does "the electricity is out." sound British to you too?
    – A-friend
    Dec 14, 2020 at 16:21
  • @A-friend Not particularly! I've definitely said "the power is out" and I would feel completely natural saying "the internet is out", too. But I don't think "the water is out" would be my first choice and a very rough search seems to confirm that it's less common. Dec 14, 2020 at 16:28
  • 1
    To my (also American) ears, out is the natural choice, same as the power being out or the cable (TV) being out, but it's an unusual-enough situation (it's happened to my octogenarian parents exactly once in their life, because a water main broke) that I'd say there probably isn't a fixed expression for it, and I'd just say there's no water.
    – choster
    Dec 14, 2020 at 19:21

"This is a situation that we certainly can't just arbitrarily go in and shut off the water supply for a town." See, Fellhauer v. People, 447 P2d 986 (Colo. 1968)

But "shut down" a well, even though it is water-providing. (ibid.)

  • Could you provide links that can confirm your answer?
    – fev
    Dec 14, 2020 at 15:52
  • I did. Look at volume 447 of the Pacific Reporter, 2nd series, starting at page 986. This is a case from the Colorado Supreme Court.
    – user26732
    Dec 15, 2020 at 16:33

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