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Finding Water Sources

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Finding Water Sources Finding Water

If you’re faced with a survival situation one of the things you’re going to have to do is to find water. Your body loses around 2 to 3 litres of water every day through sweating and urination and this can be even greater if the weather’s hot and/or you’re using a lot of physical energy. Therefore, in order to prevent dehydration, it’s important to find water to replace these lost fluids quickly.

Observing Nature

If you’re fortunate, you may be near a lake, river, stream or pond where you’re only concern will then be purifying the water but if you’re in arid terrain where there is no immediate evidence that flowing water is nearby, there are a number of resources that you can still tap into – it’s just a case of knowing where to look.

Low areas and valleys are natural places into which water will drain. Therefore, if you’re situated in an elevated area, you need to descend to have the best chance of finding water. Look out for rock crevices as you go as rain will often collect in them. Muddy or damp ground is also a good indicator as are any areas of noticeably different green vegetation or a group of trees that seem ‘out of place’ with the rest of the landscape.

Have you seen any animals in the area? If not, what about animal tracks? If you’re able to spot some tracks which all tend to travel in the same direction, this could be a sign that the animal has headed for a place to drink. Flocks of birds gathering in the same place and even a swarm of insects often means that there is water close by.

Rainwater, Dew and Condensation

Even if you’ve followed the observations above and still haven’t come across water, there are other things you can do to collect it. If it rains, many people have been able to survive simply by harvesting rainwater. You can collect it from your tent by lowering the tent and having some kind of container in which to catch the raindrops which have landed on it - even a plastic bag will do.

Even if it’s sunny, there will still be dew to collect first thing in the morning. The easiest way to harvest dew is to get a cloth or an old T-shirt and simply drag it through the grass until the cloth is soaked with dew. Then, simply wring it out either directly into your mouth or into a container.

You can even use condensation as a useful source of drinkable water. Both trees and plants draw moisture from the ground and the best way of utilising this is to tie a plastic bag to a branch which is facing the sun and tie a knot in the bag at the top over the branch. Evaporation from the leaves will then result in condensation forming in the bag which you can then use to drink.

Solar Still

Building a solar still harnesses the sun’s energy to provide water and is still a device that is used by many tribes’ people today. Basically, they can be built using a sheet of strong plastic, a cup or some other kind of container and a piece of plastic tubing.

You should set up your still in the lowest, dampest area you can find then beginning digging a hole until you hit damp soil. Then, place your cup in the middle of the hole and place one end of the plastic tubing in the cup. Next you need to cover the hole with the plastic sheet ensuring that you have access to the other end of the tube outside the confines of your still and you can use the earth you have dug up to act as weight on top of the plastic sheet so that no air can escape. As the soil is heated by the sun, the moisture evaporates and condenses on the plastic which then drips down to the lowest portion of the plastic then into your cup. You can then drink from the cup by sucking on the tube which means you don’t have to disassemble your still first which can then be used again.

The Importance of Water Purification

Wherever possible, opt for flowing water as opposed to using water collected from stagnant pools as it’s less likely to contain as many impurities. However, it’s important that you purify ALL water that’s been collected. Even if you come across a stream that looks crystal clear, you can’t be sure that a dead animal isn't lying further upstream, so you should purify all water that you take from the environment. However, don’t collect water that has scum floating on it or where it’s surrounded by dead vegetation. Clear, fast flowing water should always be your chosen option where possible and if the water bubbles or seems to be a strange colour or gives off an unpleasant odour, only use it as a last resort.

Remember that, in a survival situation, water takes on far more importance than food and until you’re sure you have enough water resources available, you should try to conserve as much energy as you can. So, when out searching for water, try to do it early in the morning or late in the day when it will be cooler and you’re less likely to lose as much fluid through perspiring.

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