You get your water disconnected by the city or municipality for not paying your bill. You either pay it, or your life line (literally) is cut off.
Forget about watering the lawn, washing dishes, or showering. Maybe your co-workers will understand your plight and light up some scented candles instead of treating you entirely like a leper. We know you can't afford to take time off (hence that water bill payment issue).
I discovered that Puerto Rico's water authority, the AAA (or Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados) might actually use a "trick" to prevent families from re-connecting their water on their own. One resident reported this trick was done on their water meter.
You see most homes are connected to the city or town's water supply by a water meter found outside of the house, near the street. A single valve inside is what turns on your water, or disables it. In fact, there are times when you may actually want to disconnect your own water supply at the street level when you discover an internal leaking pipe or want to upgrade a bathroom or other water drawing appliance in the house, etc.
Using a water key, a tool shaped like a long "T" with a connector at the bottom specially designed for water meters, a quick twist will usually turn your water on or off. Of course, sometimes, a bit more strength is required and it's essential not to apply too much force to the valve! If it breaks, you would have a small to large scale disaster on your hands and some angry / flooded neighbors. In general, you want to stay away from the water meter unless absolutely essential. And keep in mind, depending on where you live it may actually be an offense to tamper with it, so beware.
When the city comes to disconnect your water, it's possible that they may simply turn the valve to the off position. Other cities may actually turn the valve off and lock it in place with a padlock or similar device to prevent most people from turning it back on themselves (except those with a set of bolt cutters, and no fear of getting in serious trouble for damaging private property).
Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados uses another trick! An angry reader attempted to turn their water back on after agreeing to pay a billing error (and making payment at the office). When the AAA guys did now show up as scheduled to the turn on the water, they decided to do so themselves.
Besides the lack of availability of the T-shaped water key (or water wrench), a standard adjustable wrench with a screw driver stuck through the hole in the end was sufficient to turn the water meter valve to the on position.
Then a leak started. Turns out the AAA probably encounters a lot of Puerto Rican home owners with their water cut off (for one reason or another) who are willing to turn that valve right back on, and jump into the shower (or maybe fill up the pool).
What is the trick?
The AAA takes the water meter itself completely out. Then they turn it around, switching it end to end, and tightening it back in. However, the problem is that the threads on the water supply side cannot be tightened up enough. If you open the valve it will leak (i.e. like a small waterfall, not like a drip drop).
In this situation, the only way to turn the water back on (presuming you were permitted to do this - you're not by the way) is to take the meter out and put it back in the right way. Due to the awkward angles, unless you know what you're doing, you may find it difficult to get the meter out in the first place.
The tricksters at the AAA know how to do it in about 10 minutes. Perhaps they have a special tool or technique.
Moral of the story: Do your best to pay your water bill. It's essential (as if that needs saying). You cannot rely on the AAA people to show up on time even after you pay your bill, and if they apply the trick to your water meter (reversing it), it's going to be much harder for you to turn it back on.
Note: The water meter records all water that flows through the system. Someone from the AAA reads the meter every few months. They bill you monthly based on your projected consumption. They won't make any special efforts to tell you if they see a big increase in your bill (i.e. a sign of a broken line, significant leak in your toilet, sinks, or other plumbing lines, etc).
When you receive a bill that is significantly higher than your normal bill, you must contact them immediately. Otherwise, they will disconnect you for failure to pay the full amount. On top of that, you have 30 days to report an issue. After 30 days, even if you can prove it was some issue outside of your control, they won't care. You'll be disconnected until you pay.
Were you unfairly disconnected? What's your story?