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Families were left wondering whether their Christmas plans could go ahead after burst pipes left thousands of homes without tap water following the bitter cold snap.

Some have even flushed their toilets using snow and collect rainwater to do the dishes.

Homes across the south of England including Hampshire, Sussex and Kent have been affected after pipes burst following a thaw in subzero temperatures.

But Southern Water said today that the water supplies were beginning to increase to a ‘position where we believe we can meet demand.’

There were long queues at a bottled water station in Eastleigh, Hampshire yesterday

There were long queues at a bottled water station in Eastleigh, Hampshire yesterday

Local residents have been collecting bottled water to use for cooking, washing and even flushing their toilets yesterday

Local residents have been collecting bottled water to use for cooking, washing and even flushing their toilets yesterday

The company said in a statement: ‘Our water supply works are stable and our reservoir storage is topped up. This means that we can now allow water to flow through our network and customers will see water supply in their homes over the coming hours.

‘We’ll be increasing supply gradually as we repressurise the network to avoid pipes bursting.

‘This means that it’s going to take a little while for all our customers to be back in supply, and for some that could be this evening. If customers leave their homes before their water returns today, please check taps are switched off to avoid floods.

‘Deliveries to our vulnerable customers on the Priority Services Register will continue as a precautionary measure only and for the moment bottled water stations remain open. 

‘We are sorry for the distress this incident has caused and would like to thank customers for their patience.’

One father with a young baby told how he ‘suddenly’ lost water on Wednesday afternoon.

Rob Barber, from Southampton, Hampshire, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his Christmas plans were in tatters after the burst pipe cut off his water supply.

He said: ‘I’ve got a young family at home, with a baby who’s still in nappies, and not being able to flush a toilet at a time so close to Christmas is a pretty horrendous situation to be in.  

People queuing for bottled water at a station set in Eastleigh, Hampshire, on Thursday

People queuing for bottled water at a station set in Eastleigh, Hampshire, on Thursday

‘We’re getting to the point where if we don’t have any end in sight we’re going to seriously have to consider whether we spend Christmas at home or not.’

Four bottled water stations across the affected area have now been set up, open daily from 8am to 10pm.

However, there have been claims that bottled water supplies were running low at one station yesterday, and there were long queues for people trying to access it.

Mr Barber continued: ‘My understanding is that Southern Water were running out at some of these stations and they had to close to restock.

‘There was an hour wait in one of the stations which obviously is pretty horrendous.’ 

Hundreds of motorists formed long queues yesterday to get bottled water at stations set up across Hampshire

Hundreds of motorists formed long queues yesterday to get bottled water at stations set up across Hampshire

Angie Perkins, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said her water, which is supplied by South East Water, had been cut off and intermittent since last Thursday, December 15. 

The mother, like thousands of others, has collected water from bottled water stations set up around the region in order to shower and wash-up.

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She told BBC Radio 4: ‘Everyone’s really worried abut the Christmas situation.

‘Everyone’s got back up plans, plan Bs. I myself was supposed to be hosting Christmas here for eight people.’

Yesterday long queues of motorists formed as they waited to collect bottled water.

Families queuing up for water on Thursday after burst pipes cut off around 20,000 homes in the south of England just before Christmas

Families queuing up for water on Thursday after burst pipes cut off around 20,000 homes in the south of England just before Christmas

Southern Water said there would be a restricted supply of water for at least 48 hours as they were under ‘significant pressure’ after rapid thaw from the recent freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst.

It is understood that at least 24,000 householders are affected, with low water pressure or no water at all just days before Christmas.

Emergency bottled water stations have been set up in the impacted areas, and the water supplier has promised to deliver water to vulnerable people who can’t collect it.

This station was set up as two water collection sites in Winchester were too far for some residents in Southampton to travel.

Bottled water was being given out to residents yesterday who were left without access to water in their homes due to a burst pipe

Bottled water was being given out to residents yesterday who were left without access to water in their homes due to a burst pipe

Douglas Whitfield, South East Water’s Incident Director, said: ‘Supplies have been restored to the vast majority of our customers in Kent although we are aware of some smaller, isolated issues which our team is working hard to repair.

‘The picture is also improving in Sussex after our system made a good recovery overnight.

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‘Customers in Crowborough and Ashdown should have had their supplies restored and we’re working hard to restore supplies to other impacted areas by later this morning.

‘We’re still urging customers to use water wisely to help us maintain supplies to everyone and to check homes and businesses for leaks. Any leak you find should be fixed as soon as possible to help prevent wasting water.

‘As water returns, it may appear discoloured or cloudy. This is perfectly normal and can be cleared by simply running the cold tap.

‘Please be mindful that discoloured water can be used for things like flushing toilets.

Ofwat, which regulates the industry, said: ‘Freezing weather followed by a swift thaw has led to burst pipes and disruptions to water supply.

‘We need to see water companies stepping up, responding swiftly and offering support and compensation where appropriate throughout a trying period.’

A Water UK spokesperson said: ‘Last weekend’s sudden change to milder weather caused a rapid thawing of burst plumbing in homes and businesses, and increased leaks from buried water mains.

‘Water companies are working around the clock to boost supply while the network refills to normal levels.

‘We don’t expect any further freeze-thaw incidents to occur over the Christmas period as the temperature is forecast to remain stable.

‘Water companies are working hard to resume normal supply to homes and businesses still affected as quickly as possible, while providing bottled water to residents in the meantime. We urge any customers who are concerned about their water supply to get in touch with their local water company.’

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