There is one thing that is notably important to your survival in any life situation: WATER. Though this may come across as an elementary fact, the processes of locating this lifeline can mean the difference between life and death.
The human body, made up of about 90 percent water, cannot keep up with its productivity without a consistent minimum amount of water.
The amount required has many varying factors, including (most importantly) to climate and the nature of the activity in which one is engaged.
The first step to take when water is in short demand is to conserve the water that you already have in your body.
Be sure to:
- Immediately cover exposed skin: This’ll not only prevent sunburn, but it actually will aid in water retention.
- Obviously, avoid energetic work like the plague (especially during the hottest parts of the day).
- If no water is available, eat as little food as possible; practice not talking unless necessary and breathing only through the nostrils.
- You may find yourself surrounded by water, but with not a drop to drink (seawater or wastewater); however, you can wet your clothes with the brackish water. This will cool them and your skin, reducing sweat.
- Never, never eat loose snow (this will lead to immediate dehydration).
- Absolutely spurn the use of cigarettes and alcohol (and big meals at that!).
Though these techniques, when converted to survival scenarios, can be highly effective, bear in mind, each one is but a transient response to the main problem.
Any sort of long-term survival requires a good supply of drinking water. Without the minimum, the body has only about three days (give or take) until the water shortage becomes fatal.
*** It is of severe significance to understand that most surface water (notably if stagnant or murky) will be defiled with water-borne diseases. This water (contrary to some hardcore survivalist’s beliefs) is highly hazardous to swig on unless cleansed and purified.
Never underestimate the health risk put on by unclean water. While some factors (namely the geographical location of the water source, among many other elements) may be arguably for those “die-hards”, when you drink water straight from the unknown source, you have absolutely no clue what’s in it.
Thirst may kill you “quickly”, but it must be understood that contaminated water will produce a slow, excruciating death.
There has been, is, and more than likely will forever be a great debate over this subject, and I see no point in getting into it here.
However, the best advice is, if you are unsure about the water source you have found, your supporting chance is to filter or purify it. Try not to be led by your thirst (though, in a dire situation, this discipline can prove to be troublesome).
Approaches to Purification:
Filtration is the first problem in making water suitable for consumption. The action of filtration will remove any critters as well as bits of mud, leaves or any other foreign gunk.
Some MIT studies show that the pine tree has proven to trap bacteria found in contaminated water. It is a study well-worth looking into.
Other ways to filter water can be through the use of a sock, short sleeve or piece of cloth that is filled with sand; also, a section of bamboo, obstructed at one end with grass and sand, make for a damned good filter.
If available, always use purification tablets after the filtration process.
There are a slew of portable water filters out in the “real world”, however, this is more of a survival-based read, so we will only discuss survival-like tactics.
The most reliable source of purification is boiling it. Boil the water for a minimum of five minutes. Best results will come from producing a boil vehement enough to roll the water thoroughly. This is the surest way to ensure equal distribution of the heart. The obvious flaw to this method (at least in survival terms) is the fact that fire or some efficient enough heat source is absolutely required.
Related reading: How To Kill Water Contaminants On The Field
Though not entirely as efficient, several other methods have been discovered by some thirsty humans from times past. Of the many, many methods obtainable, a few may consist of:
Using this method (construction later discussed) will purge water by utilizing the same principle that is used when getting water from the ground or vegetation. This method may only be implied if the climate is at a minimum of warm and the sun is fully out. This and the vegetation still may be the next best water purification techniques (after boiling, of course).
This technique is great for applying to murky waters. The particles in the water settle at the bottom of the collection vessel, leaving the water clean except for the bottom portion. This method takes time, 24-48 hours. Once the water has separated from the particles, filter the clean portion through a sand filter.
In the title, dowsing, witching, and even divining water was mentioned/ This was meant as a sort of metaphor directed toward the dire need to be able to locate water in a survival situation.
In popular and urban areas water will be readily available (unless there is an extreme drought happening).
However, where most survival situation are very likely to take place, the chances are that surface water will be difficult to find.
Stress not, nevertheless, for typically there is an untapped source of water. This collection is the result of rainfall which has soaked into the earth. (Typically, this is considered pure).
The surrounding land, rock and soil types make for good signs on just how easy or difficult it will be to locate such water. The rate of local rainfall will also play as a major indicator.
Each and every region is different. It is highly important to have the ability to recognize these signs and the areas they will show themselves in:
It can be here that the most dramatic reality of the importance of water will present itself to the survivor.
Simply the heat of a hot desert can up the normal minimum required amount of water needed to survive all the way up to an absolute minimum of 8.8 pints per day.
In the desert, the tips above for saving water already in the body, are momentous to survival. You must use any available water to the greatest advantage.
A key stratagem to consider is to not eat or drink anything for the first 24 hours; after that only drink planned amounts at carefully scheduled intervals.
It is now dire to obtain an ample supply of water. It has proven to be fatal to wait to locate a water source only once you’ve depleted your own source. Make this your initial goal if you find yourself with a short supply of water in the desert.
Signs to follow in the desert-
- Dry river/stream beds- Though now appearing dry, these may still have water under the surface. When a riverbed dries up, the water recedes to the lowest point of the bed. An outside bed is the most likely collection place for that water. If water has collected, look for dirt that appears darker than the surrounding soil. If you come across a natural bowl or depression in a bend, start digging there. You will be digging what is called a seep. (If the ground is damp in the seep, but no water is collecting, you should highly consider building a solar still).
- Trails (animal or human)- There’s a sort of half and half chance that a path or trail may lead to a water source of some kind. However, it is a bit like playing a game of Russian roulette. The path could lead to a well or oasis, or it could lead you on a wild goose chase to the nothingness of a great abyss. Assess the risk suitable for the scenario.
- Natural Cisterns- These can be found under cliffs, behind projecting rocks or in rock gullies. Any sort of green vegetation shows that there is some sort of water in the ground.
The best approach to digging up water by the sea or a saltwater body is to determine a spot that is at least 100 meters above the high tide line. This water will still be salty, but it can be a short-term savior. Again, by use of a solar still, you can improve the worth of the water.
If a fire is an available option, salt water can be distilled: Build a small tripod over a fire. Hang a cooking pot very close to the fire so that the water inside boils rapidly. Now cover the pot with a clean piece of cloth. As it becomes soaked, remove the cloth and replace it with another (and yes, they will be hot; I trust, seeing as how we are preppers, that common sense is still alive and striving, and you’ll know better than to get burned…). Next step is to wring out the moisture into a collection vessel.
All this is not, however, to say that salt is entirely bad, at least not exactly. Though to a much less degree than water, salt is also of considerable importance to the human body. Salt deficiency can escalate all the way to the heatstroke level if one is not careful. In a dry desert or sticky jungle setting, adding a bit of salt to your water supply could restore your energy trifold. Doing such will help to resupply the salt that has sweated out through your pores.
Extreme cold (even with snow or ice involved) can bestow quite some difficulties when it comes to ensuring a dependable water supply.
As mentioned earlier (yes, it is that important), refrain from eating loose snow, this will lead to dehydration.
When it comes to melting, ice is a superior, (because it contains little to no air (unlike snow) and will liquefy faster.
Utilizing the warmth of the sun can help with the melting process. Pile snow/ice mixture on a large, flat rock; place it in direct sunlight; as the rock heats up, catch the melting water in a collection vessel.
A small fire, given you have the fuel, can be lit under the rock to advance the speed of the melting.
A few other ways to “divine” water:
These methods for collecting water can be used in multiple terrains
Some plants can, themselves, become a source of water (although, it should be kept in mind that these methods are for times of emergency).
One thing to consider is never to drink milky or colored plant juice (two that are milky, but clear for drinking, are the American barrel cactus and the milk of a coconut).
Often, vines will retain good drinking water in their centers. Cut the vine as high up as you can reach, then cut the bottom end while holding it over a collection vessel.
Many plant types catch and hold rainwater for long periods of time. Many cupped-leaf plants can also retain enough water to help quench your thirst.
It is of great importance to study any such plants that will be in the region you are to be traveling through.
Check out this article: Drinking Water Survival Myths You Should Know
This can be one of the most useful methods of obtaining water in the wild or during a crisis-like situation. This is known as condensation or vegetation still. All forms of vegetation naturally draw water from the earth and share it with the surrounding foliage.
A way to exploit this natural collection of water all you have to do is to seal off a section of foliage and allow the moisture to build up.
Steps to Condensation Collection:
- Be sure to choose a healthy looking green (this is important, duh) plant.
- Cover the plant with a plastic survival bag.
- Tie the bag’s neck around the base of the plant.
- Make a small depression in the soil on both sides of the plant and press some of the sides of the bag into them (this will be the collection points for the moisture to drip into).
Another way to skin that cat:
Gather some fresh cut foliage (green, obviously) and seal it in a polythene bag. Though very effective, this method only produces a small amount of water.
Seal off a portion of a growing, green plant with a plastic bottle.
All of these condensation stills will produce moisture that is suitable for drinking.
This final method of water collecting is a skill set EVERY prepper, hiker, mountaineer, desert-trekker, and outdoor enthusiast should know.
It’s uses are a multitude of survival excellence!
This simple, ingenious device can be used in nearly any region if no water is readily found, is impure or is simply undrinkable.
A solar still will produce water nearly anywhere, making it a dire skill set to have in your repertoire.
Making a solar still
- (The number one reason to have) a clear plastic sheet, about 2.5 square yards, is required, as well as a plastic container or collection device. (Another handy piece of equipment for your solar still would be a five-foot-long drinking tube; however, this is simply a “desirable”).
- Dig a hole about three feet across and some 30 inches deep.
- Place the collection vessel in the center of the hole.
- (If you have a drinking tube, fasten one end in the container); spread the sheet over the hole. (Bring the other end of the drinking tube up and out from under the edge of the sheet).
- Secure the edges of the sheet with stones. Place a rock in the center so that it produces an inverted cone. (The weight of the rock should be enough to drop the center about 14 inches below its horizontal).
- To ensure the sheet is secure and the hole is sealed off, scoop sand or soil around the edges.
The key to a successful solar still is to build it in a place with direct sunlight and no shade.
The rays from the sun will go through the sheet, heat the ground underneath, and begin to evaporate any moisture that is in the earth. The air that is trapped below the sheet will become saturated.
This water vapor will condense on the underside of the sheet while the droplets run down along the sheet and drip into the collection vessel.
A solar still can produce at least 0.9 pint(s) of water in twenty-four hours (except in very dry desert conditions). In very good conditions you can obtain nearly two and a half pints!
To ensure the full use of your solar still, during construction be sure to:
- Not allow the sheet to touch the sides of the hole at any point
- Be sure the center point is directly over the collection vessel
- Be %100 positive that the edge around the hole is completely airtight
A final piece of survival advice on “witching” water:
If you find yourself injured or unable to move, you can wrap a large piece of cloth around the base of a tree. Make a corner of the cloth run into a water bottle. Moisture will collect as it is released from the tree.
There is nothing more important to your survival than that precious H2O. Without it, your entire repertoire of survival tactics can be discarded and deemed worthless.
As a prepper, outdoor enthusiast, and simply a living, breathing being, you must learn as many water finding skills that you can, and burn them into your memory forevermore (no, not that high school first love forevermore; no, more so like that you-never-forget-how-to-ride-a-bicycle forevermore).
Good luck out there in the “pre-SHTF” world upon which we all dwell together!
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.