Cape Breton's Potlotek First Nation had no running water for the second straight day Wednesday and band leaders say it will be at least another day until service is restored.
The Chapel Island community's water pump burned out Tuesday and no water is coming out of the taps. Schools and businesses have been forced to close.
Many of the 550 residents in the 167 homes on the reserve are melting snow in bath tubs to flush toilets and do basic hygiene. A flu is going through the community, making matters worse.
The band is handing out large bottles of drinkable water.
Bernadette Marshall said families with young children and seniors are struggling to find ways to wash and stay healthy.
"There's a lot of children that are sick and a lot of elders that have [the] flu virus going around," she said.
"They're dealing with toilets that don't flush, no water to wash your hands, and it's terrible. It couldn't have been at a worse time."
Band manager Lindsay Marshall said he hopes to have the pump fixed by Thursday, but residents will still have to boil for a few days to make sure the water is safe.
The underlying problem is an outdated water and electrical system, the band says. The federal government is responsible for replacing the system, but the band says it has not responded to requests to do so.
"It makes me angry because this is all preventable. It's all stuff that could be done: good maintenance, good funding, good maintenance regime and all that," Marshall said.
"But it's not because of the lack of funding that First Nation bands get across Canada."
Erica Meekes, press secretary for Bernard Valcourt, the minister for aboriginal affairs, issued a statement about the water problems.
"Our government is committed to working with First Nations to support strong and healthy communities. We will continue to ensure that First Nations have the same access to safe, clean drinking water in their communities as all other Canadians," it said.