Beleaguered householders in Draperstown have been forced to boil snow and river water during industrial action by Northern Ireland Water staff.
Up to 6,500 homes and business across Northern Ireland were still without water as unions and the government-owned company prepared to meet to discuss the crisis.
Out-of-hours repair services are not being carried out as normal due to the continuing work-to-rule protest over proposed changes to the staff pension scheme.
Counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry are among the worst affected areas.
Eilish Doyle - whose home in the Sperrin Mountains outside Draperstown, was without water for six days - likened her situation to that of a “third world country”.
The mother-of-three said: “I had to go out and collect snow from the roof of the cars and boil it for tea and cooking, because that’s the cleanest place you can take snow. You can’t take it from the ground because you don’t know what was on the ground.
“It has been horrendous.
“My husband and son had to go and carry water from the river which runs by the side of our house so we could use it to flush our toilets.”
Mrs Doyle, 46, blasted NI Water’s customer services and said someone needs to be made accountable.
She added: “Their customer services was diabolical - it has been terrible. I never saw one person from NI Water until last night at 7pm.
“I don’t know who is to blame but somebody has to be held to account.”
Patricia Gray, 45, was unable to heat her Co Derry house for four days.
The mother of four teenagers said: “It was awful. It was brushing our teeth and not being able to flush the toilet and wash your hands with warm water which were worst.
“It has been very, very difficult.
“We have had temperatures of minus 6C and my central heating, which works on a pressurised water system, has not been able to be turned on.
“I have had no heat for four days except a fire. So, we have all been living in one room with the fire then running and jumping into bed. My children have been wearing two and three layers of clothing to bed -- which isn’t right in this day and age.”
Red Cross volunteers were deployed to help desperate householders in parts in Tyrone.
A spokeswoman said volunteers had battled severe weather and snowy driving conditions to deliver bottled water to the most vulnerable.
She said: “This kind of response would be typical of our emergency response role which often sees us working in a planned way, as part of a multi-disciplinary team. We remain on standby.”
NI Water said it was working to minimise disruption.
A statement on the company’s website said: “As many as 6,500 properties still remain without a water supply and ... further properties may also suffer a disruption to their supply throughout the day due to ongoing industrial action.
“Water treatment works will be attended to on Monday morning and brought back into service as quickly as possible, but it will take time for customer supplies to be restored to normal. NI Water will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“NI Water is working to minimise disruption to customers’ supplies and where appropriate will be providing alternative supplies.”
Sarah Venning, chief executive of NI Water, said it had put forward a “realistic” and “reasonable” offer to the unions.