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In This Article

Finding Water

Signs of Water
Collecting Water
Water Precautions

In This Section

Water is essential No. 1. Locating water and making it safe is the first step in survival.


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Finding Water Where There Is None
Updated: Sunday, 03 January 2010

  Water is a necessity of life. Having this knowledge can forearm you to survive in a hostile environment. How can this knowledge be used?

  Knowing the importance of water means that you will be alert to where water may be found. When traveling in dry desert areas pay attention to gas stations, towns, oasis or other sources where water can be found as you travel. If you become stranded, and no help is available, this source of water may give you a direction and place to go.


Educate yourself


Explore and learn the areas you will go by asking questions and looking at maps when going to new territory. How or where do local people get water? Is there a well, spring oasis or other water source in the area? If the area is very remote this knowledge can save your life and should be known by local guides, individuals or be visible on many maps.

Look and listen for signs of water

During the day it is wise to find out where you are and the lay of the land. During the day looking for any sign of human civilization will likely lead to water even in the desert. If civilization can't be seen then look for a concentration of green vegetation or trees that may be near a river, stream, spring or pond of water. Bridges on roadways often mean water is below. While your "base camp" will be at or near a road or your vehicle, you may be able to gather water from a nearby location if possible. Animal trails may indicate the way to water if they are well traveled.

During the evening watch and listen for birds and other animals that may be watering. This may give indications of watering holes of these animals. Watch for snakes.

During the night look for lights of nearby houses and villages or distant lights of civilization. This may give you clues as to where you are or provide a direction if you must travel to a new location. Be cautious of  snakes and wild animals that are hunting.

During the morning watch and listen for birds and other animals that may be watering. This may give indications of watering holes of these animals. Watching for dragonflies, mosquitoes, ants and other animals or insects which also indicate water is nearby. These are all clues to follow. Note that common desert dwelling animals or reptiles may go along time without water, don't count on these to point you in the right direction.

Extracting and collecting water from alternate sources


  Rain is generally drinkable immediately if caught in a clean container. Clean Tarps and Plastic sheeting can be used to catch rain and direct it into containers. Plastic sheeting should be placed over asphalt or fiberglass shingles, if catching water from a roof, a metal roof may be clean enough after it has been washed by the rain water, before this happens it may be coated with dirt and fecal matter from birds, plastic sheeting or tarps should be centered on a turn in the roof (a valley) and directed over the edge in a narrow area so that it can be caught. Using so ingenuity you can devise various methods to catch the water. Rainfall also provides, pools of water, if these are to shallow the water can be mopped or absorbed in cloth and then rung out. Leaves of plants can be fashioned to catch water and direct it into containers. Leaves can also be shook to collect water from them.


  Dew can be mopped from wet surfaces with a cloth that can then be rung out. Cloths can be tied around legs and then by walking through tall grass, the dew can be collected. By hanging or laying large mats or pieces of fabric on the ground dew can also be collected then rung out or wiped off into containers.


  Tying a bag around the end of a tree or bush branch branch will render condensation inside the bag, this can be collected and used fro drinking, provided the bags are clean. Be aware not to use poisonous plants. Plants with a waxy look to their leaves will provide little water.

  The Solar Still will also provide condensation from the ground, especially if it is moist, as well as from any moist plant matter you may toss in.


  Cactus and other plants may contain water. Know which are poisonous and should be avoided. Others can be collected from such as the barrel or prickly pear (edible after peeled) cactus. There is more information in the survival manual linked below on this subject. Watch for meandering healthy plant life in dry country, this signifies the presence of water.


  Water may be found or available from sources underground or from the water table itself. Caves often harbor pools of rain water that have ran into the cave. If you have lighting or can see safely where the water is then it can be collected. Don't venture into caves unless you have lighting to see by. Caves can be very dangerous, hidden pitfalls or slips can send one plummeting hundreds of feet to certain death in many caves around the world.

  Springs, Seeps or Wells may also be available to get water from. A Spring may run with a lot of water volume, especially after rain but springs may be active even when everything is very dry.

  Seeps are another source of water, they can be seen where water seeps from the ground. digging under or in these areas can provide usable water with a little patience.

Wells may be found, especially if you follow human foot prints in very dry areas. The well may be covered by a stone or other items, watch carefully for it. Don't fall in and replace the cover as it was after obtaining water.

Other Underground Sources

Digging in dry stream or river beds, especially where there is green vegetation can provide water. Plants such as Cat Tails, Willow trees and others mean that water is present and may be hidden just under the surface. Following dry river or steam beds down hill will often yield small pools of water.




Precautions with water

  1. If water tastes salty or strange it must be distilled.

  2. Oil, gasoline and other substances may contaminate water, skimming the top away, and not collecting from the bottom or stirring up the water, may help when collecting your supply.

  3. Always follow treatment procedures before drinking the water or using it for sanitary purposes.

  4. Urine and Salt Water should never be drank, these must be distilled first.

  5. Be alert for predators and snakes when near water in dry areas.

Water a necessity of life

We have considered a lot in the last few articles, dehydration, water born organisms, proper treatment of water, storage and locating it in dry locations. When faced with a survival situation never give up hope, wars are not won or lost in a single battle. Don't fight the nature around you, but use it, realize that, at least for the moment, this is your new home and you have a lot to explore and learn. Use thinking ability, skill and determination to overcome the problems you face and make your situation better. Use the knowledge and skills you have gained here to start meeting your needs. Water is a necessity of life. Happily our planet is covered with it. Use all your senses, skills and reasoning ability and you can not only survive but have a richer life for having done so.


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