One of the most important survival skills is the ability to find clean water. Depending on the environment and the tools that you have this can be very challenging at times. We, human beings, are made of 2/3 water and dehydration can lead to shutdown of many of our body’s functions and ultimately death. We need water for survival.
Notice that the title of this page is finding clean water. Finding water may not seem like a challenge for some environments, but in order to avoid disease and further dehydration, you’ll want to find water that is clean and/or have the ability to purify it.
Water that is stagnant can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other harmful organisms that can cause sickness, diarrhea, vomiting, and other unpleasant symptoms which could endanger your survival. Water with high salt content, like that found near the ocean or tidal areas can cause further dehydration and act as a laxative, taking precious water fromyour body.
Below are a few methods to help you find clean water, capture it, and purify it to aid in your survival:
Containing the Water
If you don’t have a metal cup or other container to capture and boil water, you may need to look to the wild. Items such as a hollowed-out bamboo, a coconut shell, a sea shell, and a turtle shell can all be used as water containers and placed over the fire for boiling. These containers can also be very useful in capturing rain water and some of the other methods described below.
Snow & Ice
Snow and ice can be good sources of clean water, but it’s best that you melt and boil it just to be on the safe side. Aside from purifying it, eating snow and ice takes energy from your body to warm it up and it will reduce your body temperature. Sea ice contains salt and should not be eaten or used unless desalted.
Construct a Still
A still is an effective means to find clean water, but they take time and the right materials. A good still should be able to produce from a pint to a quart or water in 24 hours. A still works by causing moisture to evaporate from the ground or vegetation. You can use a plastic poncho or sheet to trap the moisture and a canteen cup or other container to capture it. You can also use a cloth shirt, allow it to get saturated and then wring it out into a container. The picture to the right is an example of an underground still. If you’re using placing vegetation in the still, be sure NOT to use poisonous plants, as they will produce poisonous liquids!
If you’re in an area with plantain or banana trees, these can provide a good source of water for up to 4 days. Cut the tree about a foot from the ground and carve a bowl shape into the stump. The roots will continue to pull water into the stump for 3-4 days. The first few bowls may have a bitter taste, but after that they become more palatable. You can also cut green bamboo and vines to find water. Cut the vine or stalk at the bottom and notch the top. Place a container to catch the dripping water. Boil the water to purify.
Capturing Rain Water
Collecting rain is a good way to find clean water without having to filter or purify it. Using a poncho, emergency blanket or other large surface area, slope the surface downward to your canteen cup and pull the ends of the surface together so that the entire stream of water tapers into your container. You should also take out whatever containers that you have and allow them to collect the rain water. Look at the drip line of some of the larger trees and you’ll see that some places are better than others to place containers to collect rain. Collecting rain water from trees with large leaves is a good way to find water after it rains.
Water from an underground spring, fresh snow, and rain water are less likely to have high bacteria and contamination when compared to water from lakes and streams. It’s a good idea to purify all of your water before consumption. The effects of a bacteria-caused sickness could decrease your chances of survival and is a risk that you should try to avoid. Boiling water for 10 minutes will kill all of the bacteria and is a good means for purifying water. Note: One minute of boiling at sea-level and an additional minute for every 1,000 feet above is the rule-of-thumb or 10 minutes just to be on the safe-side. If you have iodine tables or drops add them to your canteen or container. Be sure to read the instructions. Most of the purification tablets or drops take 30 minutes before you can consume the water.
Knowing where to find clean water and how to purify is one of the most important survival skills there is. Water can sustain you and keep your body performing so that you can accomplish other necessary survival tasks like building your shelter, creating a fire, setting up distress signals, finding food, etc…