Simple ways of Finding Water to guarantee Survival

All life depends on water and all living things contain it. The average person can survive for three weeks without food but without finding water survival will be only three days. It is the number one priority. Don’t wait  until you have run of water before you look for it. Conserve what you have and seek a source as soon as possible, preferably by boiling or use of chemical purifiers.

The human body is 75% water. It is the coolant that keeps the body at an even temperature, it is needed to the kidneys functioning to eliminate wastes and it is in some ways the conductor or vehicle for nerve impulses. But the fluids contained in the body are limited. Lost water must be replenished or health and efficiency will suffer.

Water Loss

The average person loses 2 – 3 litres (4 – 6 pints) of water each day – even someone resting in the shade loses about 1 litre (2 pints). Just breathing loses fluids and through respiration and perspiration increases with work rate and temperature. Vomiting and diarrhoea in illness increase loss further. This must all be replaced to preserve the critical water balance, either by actual water or water contained in food.

Ways to Retain Fluids

To keep fluid loss to a minimum, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid exertion….Just rest.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Keep cool. Stay in shade, if there is none erect a cover to provide it.
  • Do not lie on hot ground or heated surfaces.
  • Don’t eat, or eat as little as possible. If there is no water available fluid will be taken from the vital organs to digest food, further increasing dehydration. Fat is hardest to digest and takes a lot of fluid to break it down.
  • NEVER drink alcohol. This also takes fluid from the vital organs to break it down.
  • Don’t talk – and breathe through your nose, not the mouth.


Finding Water:

The first place to look is in the bottom of valleys where water naturally drains. If there is no obvious stream or pool, look for patches of green vegetation and try digging there. Water may be found just below the surface which will build up in the hole your digging. Even digging in gullies and dry stream beds may reveal a spring beneath the surface, especially in gravelly areas. In mountains look for water trapped in crevices.




On the coast digging above the high water line, especially where there are sand dunes, has a good chance of producing about 5cm (2in) of fresh water. It may be brackish but is still drinkable. Where cliffs fall into the sea look for lush growth of vegetation, even ferns and mosses, in a fault in the rock formation and you may find a soak or spring. If no fresh water can be found, salt water can be distilled. You’ll learn how, elsewhere in this website.

If you are worried about the health risks of drinking from these sources and you can buy an “Aquastiq”  which is a portable, palm sized filter that is safe, simple and easy to use and turns a thousand litres of water into clean drinkable water. In my opinion, this is the best and most affordable filter ever made! 


Be very suspicious of any pool with no green vegetation growing around it, or animal bones present. It is likely to be polluted by chemicals in the ground close to the surface. Check edge for minerals which might indicate alkaline conditions.


In deserts there are lakes with no outlets; these become salt lakes. Their water MUST be distilled before drinking. 

Dew and Rain Collection:

Despite the acid rain produced by industrialised countries,which can cause a build-up of pollution in the soil, rainwater everywhere is drinkable and only needs collecting. Use as big a catchment area as possible, running the water off into containers of every kind. A hole dug in the ground and lined with clay will hold water efficiently, but keep it covered. If you have no impermeable sheeting, metal sheets or bark can be used to catch water in. If you have any doubt about the water you have collected, boil it.



In climates where it is very hot during the day and cold at nights, heavy dew can be expected. When it condenses on metal objects it can be sponged or licked off.


You can use clothing to soak up water and then wring it out. One way is to tie clean clothes around the legs and ankles and walk through wet vegetation. These can be sucked or wrung out.





Using animals to lead you to water:


Most animals require water regularly. Grazing animals are usually never far from water, though some animals travel thousands of miles to avoid the dry season, but they still need to drink at dawn and dusk. Converging game trails often lead to water; follow them downhill. Carnivores (meat eaters) can go for a long time between waterings. They get their fluids from the animals on which they prey, so are not a positive indication of local water.



Grain eaters, such as finches and pigeons are never far from water. They drink at dawn and dusk. When they fly straight and low they are heading for water. When returning from water they are loaded with it and fly from tree to tree, resting frequently. Plot their direction and water can be found.

Water birds can travel long distances without stopping to feed or drink so do not necessarily indicate there will be water nearby. Hawks, eagles and other birds of prey also get their fluids from their victims, so cannot be taken as a sign that there is water in the vicinity.


Not an indicator of water. They collect dew and get moisture from prey, so can go a long time without needing to drink.




Are good indicators of water, especially bees; they fly at most 6.5 km (4 miles) from their nests or hives but have no regular watering times. Ants are dependent upon water and a column of ants marching up a tree is going to a small reservoir of trapped water. Most flies keep within 90metres (100yards) of water, especially the European Mason Fly with its iridescent green body.


Human tracks:

Will usually lead to a well, bore hole or soak. It may be covered over with scrub or rock to reduce evaporation. You should always replace the cover after taking some water.





If you have to ration water, take it in sips. After going a long time without water, don’t guzzle when you do find it. Take only sips at first. Large gulps will make a dehydrated person vomit, losing more of the valuable liquid.




Tree and plant roots draw moisture from the ground, but a tree may take it from a water table 15 meters (50 feet) or more below, too deep to dig down to reach. Don’t try; let the tree or plant pump it up for you by tying a plastic bag around a leafy branch. Evaporation from the leaves will produce condensation in the bag.





Choose healthy vegetation and bushy branches. On trees keep the mouth of the bag at the top with a corner hanging low to collect condensed evaporation. Placing a polythene Plastic tent over any vegetation will collect moisture by evaporation which will condense on the plastic as it cools. Suspend the tent from the apex or support with a padded stick. Avoid foliage touching the sides of the trap or it will divert water droplets which should collect in plastic-lined channels at the bottom.



Even cut vegetation will produce some condensation as it warms up when placed in a large plastic bag. Keep foliage off the bottom with stones so that water collects below it and keep foliage from touching the plastic. Use stones to keep the bag taut. Support the top on a padded stick and arrange the bag on a slight slope to encourage condensation to run down to the collecting point. When no longer productive, replace with fresh foliage.



Solar Still:

Dig a hole in the ground approximately 90cm (36in) across and 45cm (18in) deep. Place a collecting can in the centre, then cover the hole with a sheet of plastic formed into a cone by adding a small stone in the middle of the sheet directly over the collecting can. The sun’s heat raises the temperature of the air and soil below and vapour is produced. As the air becomes saturated, water condenses on the underside of the plastic and runs down into the container. This is especially effective in desert regions and elsewhere when it is hot during the day and cold at night. The plastic cools more quickly than the air causing heavy condensation. This kind of still should collect at least 55cc (1 pint) over a 24-hour period.


The still may also double as a trap. Insects and small snakes are attracted by the plastic and may slide down into the cone or wriggle underneath it and drop into the hole and then cannot climb out. A solar still can be used to distill pure water from poisonous or contaminated liquids.



Roughen the underside of the plastic sheet with a stone to ensure droplets run down it. Use stones or weights to secure edges and keep cone shape. Fix can with branches and vegetation (this will also increase the amount of water produced) so that trapped creatures cannot tip it over. If feasible you can use a syphon to a lower level to draw off water without disturbing the still.






Never drink either – Never! But both can produce drinking water if distilled – and sea water will provide you with a residue of salt.