Finding water is at the top of your priorities in any survival situation, ranking well above food. The reason is simple, you can survival far longer without food than without water. Without water, there’s a high chance of dying in just a few days.
The regular intake of water essential to life is about 2 to 3 liters a day. This is the minimum required to keep your water balance and prevent dehydration. In a survival situation, you should always filter and purify. In this post we’ll cover different ways to source and procure water. We’ll cover filtering and purification methods and gear in a separate post.
Here are a few method to find water:
Dew collectors can be improvised from sheets of plastic, but commercial version are far more efficient. Condensation gathers on the sides of the collector, eventually running down into the central reservoir. Dew collectors are especially useful as the fluids collected can be safely drunk without the need of filtration or purification.
In areas with moderate to heavy dew, dew can be collected by tying rags or tuffs of fine grass around your ankles. While walking through dewy grass before sunrise, the rags or grass will saturate and can be rung out into a container. The rags or grass can be replaced and the process is repeated.
If you are in an area where rainfall is scarce, you want to maximize the amount of water you collect every time it does rain. A simple tarp rain collector, like the one shown in the image below, will channel large volumes of rainwater down into a bucket or container. This will type of collector will obviously need to be constructed in advance of the rain. Looks for signs of gathering clouds and pick and area with minimal obstructions to maximize the amount of rainwater collected.
Solar stills are designed to supplement water reserves. Contrary to belief, they will not provide enough water to meet the daily requirement for water.
Below-Ground Solar Still. Materials consist of a digging stick, clear plastic sheet, container, rock, and a drinking tube. Selecting a site where you believe the soil will contain. The soil should be easy to dig, and will be exposed to sunlight. See our post solar still construction for more details.
The mechanism a transpiration bag employs to source/collect water is the same as the solar still. That is why they are also known as “Above-Ground Solar Stills”. This device allows the survivor to make water from vegetation. To make the aboveground solar still, locate a sunny slope on which to place the still, a clear plastic bag, green leafy vegetation, and a small rock. See our post solar still construction for more details.
Digging for water
Digging down into damp earth can often lead to significant water deposits. Create a hole several feet deep and about 1 ft wide and allow water to seep in through the earth, collecting in the hole. ALWAYS filter ad purify such fluids before you drink them. In flat agricultural land, look for irrigation ditches between fields
Melting Snow & Ice
The environment may sometimes provide you with opportunities to acquire water. In a cold water can generally be located in the following:
Snow. Snow can be melted for potable water. Melting snow will result in a higher fuel usage. Uncontaminated snow does not need to be disinfected.
Ice. Ice can be melted for potable water. Melting ice is preferable to melting snow due to the higher concentration of water per volume. However, since ice is frozen water it needs to be disinfected.
Sea Ice. In time, sea ice loses its salinity. You can identify this ice by its rounded corners and bluish color. Gray ice has not yet lost its salt content.
Here are some general considerations when using snow and ice for water.
(1) Never melt snow or ice inside your mouth. This removes body heat and increases the chance of cold weather injuries.
(2) When on the move, use body heat to melt snow. Place snow or ice in a water bag and place the bag between your layers of clothing, not directly on the skin.
(3) Do not waste fuel to melt snow or ice when drinkable water (i.e., stream) is available.
(4) If melting snow in a container by a fire, utilize a hot rock to speed up the process and conserving fuel.
With very few exceptions, like rainwater or water immediately collected after water vapor condensation, most water sources that are procured in a survival situation should be treated before it is safe to drink. We will discuss the topics of water treatment, filtering and purifying in a separate post.