Finding and using water is the most important survival skill after shelter. If you can’t survive the night you won’t need the water, so build your shelter first. Under most circumstances we can survive three weeks without food but only three days without water. It is therefore crucial that we not only find water but also that we conserve the water already in our system.
Of all the physical problems encountered in a survival situation, the loss of water is the most preventable. The following are basic guidelines for the prevention of dehydration:
- Always drink water when eating. Water is used as a part of the digestion process and failure to drink can lead to dehydration.
- The body performs more efficiently in extreme conditions when acclimatized. It is important to control our body temperature through warming or cooling, thus acclimatizing, becoming used to the environment around your.
- Limit sweat-producing activities, but this alone is not enough. Continue to drink water.
- Ration water. Until you find a safe, sustainable source, ration your water. A daily intake of 16 ounces, (0.5 liter or 2 cups) will help to prevent severe dehydration for at least a week, provided you keep water losses to a minimum by limiting over heating and reducing activity.
Where to Find Water
Begin with the obvious and look for a river, stream or lake. You have seen bottled water that touts the fact that it is spring water. Moving water can be heard for quite a distance so take time to stop and listen. Springs are a great source but remember any water found can be contaminated so you must be cautious and purify water before it is used.
In areas where no surface water is available, dig into damp soil and allow this muddy water to settle and become clear. Another way to clear water is to make a water filter(directions below). Be careful of water which is not moving and has little or no signs of life.
Other Places to Find Water
1. Observe the flight path of birds at dawn and dusk. They will usually point you to water.
2. Swarming insects; indicate a nearby water source.
3. Animals are adept at finding water in the wild. Pay close attention to the local wildlife.
4. Lush green vegetation is a sign that water is near. Dig down.
5. Rocks and crevices.
6. In cactus.
Remember, water flows downhill so head downhill and you will find where water has accumulated.
Another method of finding water in the wild is to tie a rag or a piece of clothing around your ankle or leg and walk through the grass and bushes in the early morning. The fabric will soak up the dew that has formed during the night. You can then wring it out into a container and repeat the process until you have enough water or the dew has gone for the day.
Distillation is a good method for purifying water but the process takes a long time. You will need a metal container to heat the water and a method to capturing the steam and cooling it until water form. This can be done simply by using a pot and a lid and directing to cooling vapors into a second container. You may want to experiment with this and look at some information before you get stuck.
Water purification tablets or devices are the best way to assure safe drinking water. Include one of these in your hiking supplies and in your car in case you are unexpectedly stranded.
If your water tastes flat after purifying it, aeration by pouring it back and forth between two containers will make it more palatable.
Below ground Still
To make a belowground still, you need a shovel or other tool for digging, a food grade ccontainer, a food grade plastic sheet, a food grade plastic tube, and a rock.
Select a site where you believe the soil will contain moisture (such as a dry stream bed, a place near plant life or a low spot where rainwater has collected). The soil at this site should be easy to dig. Sunlight must hit the site most of the day for evaporation to occur.
To construct the still–
- Dig a bowl-shaped hole about 3 feet across and 2 feet deep.
- Dig a hole in the center of the original hole. The depth and width will depend on the size of the container that you have to place in it. This is the container that will collect the drinking water. The bottom of the second hole should allow the container to stand up.
- Place the container upright in the smaller hole.
- Place a piece of tubing in the container long enough to reach the bottom of the container and extend beyond the top of the original hole.
- Lay tubing on rim of the hole.
- Place a plastic sheet over the original hole, covering the edges with soil or rocks to hold it in place.
- Place a baseball size rock in the center of the plastic sheet.
- Lower the plastic sheet into the hole until it is 12-14 inches below ground level. It now forms an inverted cone shape. Make sure that the cone’s center, where the rock is, is directly over your container. Also make sure the plastic cone does not touch the sides of the hole because the earth will absorb the condensed water.
- Put more soil or rocks around the edges of the plastic to hold it if needed to keep the moisture on the bottom of the plastic from evaporating.
- The moisture from the ground will condense on the plastic and drip into your containers. Be sure to use plastic that is food grade and never anything with scents.
- Plug the end of the tube which is above ground when not in use so that the moisture will not evaporate. Use the tube as a straw and drink.
If polluted water is your only moisture source, dig a small trough outside the original hole about 10 inches from the edge of the hole. Dig the trough 8-9 inches deep and 3 inches wide. Carefully pour the polluted water into the trough.
. The soil will filter out the pollutants and clean water will condence on the plastic sheet. This also works great for salt water.
You will need at least three or four stills for each person.
Water Filtration Devices
If the water you find is also muddy, stagnant, and/or foul smelling, you can clear the water–
- By placing it in a container and letting it stand for 12 hours and gently pouring off the clear water.
- By pouring it through a filtering system.
These methods only clear the water and make it more palatable. You will still have to purify the water.
To make a filtering system, make a tri pod from three branches. Tie a T shirt or other fabric onto each of the three legs. Place container under the fabric to catch filtered water.
Layer 10-12 inches of sand and/or charcoal and/or crushed rock in a plastic container such as a milk jug. Poke small holes in the bottom of the container. Suspend container over a pot or other large collection container. Pour water in the top and allow it to drain through.
These methods will filter out twigs, leaves and insects but again you will need to purify your water.
Purifying water: See Survival Skills Water Part 1
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