The company at the center of Northern Ireland's water crisis warned Thursday it could be early next week before all supply is restored to customers, as tens of thousands of people remained without water for a ninth day.
Engineers struggled to repair pipes that burst after the recent cold spell's sudden thaw and the country's government planned an emergency meeting for later in the day to address the situation.
Northern Ireland Water has increased its supply of water to the highest level ever but 32,000 properties still face running-water disruptions, the company said. While the situation improved in Belfast, the capital, overnight, Northern Ireland Water said reconnecting rural areas to supply will take longer.
Critics have condemned Northern Ireland Water for its response to the shortages as pressure mounts for service to be restored. The company's chief executive accepted full responsibility Thursday for the crisis but defended his leadership amid calls for his ouster.
"My prime concern at the minute is to get through this situation and get it resolved," Laurence MacKenzie told reporters. "I believe I'm doing the best I can."
Long lines formed Thursday at emergency water points and Scotland trucked in thousands of liters of bottled water for distribution to help families.
Phillip Dempster, 31, said his water service has been interrupted since just after Christmas.
"It is just terrible, having to queue for water," he said while waiting for emergency supplies in east Belfast. "It just should not happen."
Government ministers will discuss the possibility of bringing in more water tankers as reservoir levels remained low.
Northern Ireland Water is putting 40 percent more water into the system than normally, said engineering director Trevor Haslett, but much of that is being negated by continuing leakages.