Whether you’re safe in the heart of civilization or lost in the wild, water is one of those essentials that you just can’t do without. And, if fate is determined to be cruel to you and places you into an unprepared survival situation, you’re going to have to work quickly to find water. Now, we all know that rivers and streams are excellent sources of water, but what if you can’t find one?
*Enter the life-giving saviors: knowledge and preparedness*
Rivers and streams, while the most obvious sources for water, are not the only sources for water. Knowing where to look to find water can be the difference between life and miserable death by dehydration. Remember what Ray Mears said: “Knowledge is the key to survival, the real beauty of that is that it doesn't weigh anything.” So take out your weightless mental notepad and get ready to store up some of these unexpected sources of water.
Unexpected Water Sources
Lost in the Desert
One of the things we all know about the desert is its lack of easily noticed and available water from lush rivers and flowing streams. There are, however, plenty of hidden sources if you only know where to look. One of the "unusual" spots for a water source is the ground. You'll find groundwater in the following locations:
- the foot of rock outcrops, cliffs, or mountain ranges
- damp/wet surface sand or soil
- the foot of concave banks of dry river beds
- the outside bend of a dry stream bed
- where green vegetation or water-loving trees such as willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, hackberries, cattails, and ashes are located
- the depression behind a dry desert lake's first sand dune
To get the water, simply dig holes using your survival knife or shovel (if you have one with you). Make sure that the holes are deep enough for water to seep in.
You can also find water in rocks, especially porous ones. Depressions, holes, and fissures in rocks might also contain water, usually as a result of recent rainfall. Siphon the water using some flexible tubing (an item that should definitely be in your Bug Out Bag along with your survival knife), or in a less ideal situation, make some tubing out of hollow plant stems.
Lastly, you can get water through condensation. Turn over half-buried rocks a little before dawn and wait for dew to form. Desert grass will also have some condensation as morning sets in. Use a cloth to absorb the dew and wring it off into a container.
To get a better idea of how to search for water when in the desert, especially in these unusual spots, check out the video below:
Lost in the Forest, Wilderness, or Tropics
While these environments may have more water sources than a desert, you won't always find yourself near the obvious water souces like rivers and streams. Fortunately, there are also several unusual places where you can find water in these environments.
1.) Trees and plants are a great source of drinking water.
- Some trees have water-filled holes from which you can get water. Watch for bees or ants going into a hole in a tree because they may be pointing you to a hidden water source.
- You can also find water in tree crotches.
- Certain trees and plants actually hold/contain water.
- Green bamboo thickets
- Banana or plantain trees
- Some tropical vines
- Palm trees (such as coconut and rattan)
- Traveler's trees (in Madagascar)
- Umbrella trees (in Africa)
- Baobab trees (in Australia and Africa)
With your survival knife, you can cut into the tree, vine, stem, branch, or root to get your water. For some, such as vines and bamboos, you can let the water within the plant drip into your container or straight into your mouth. For some trees such as banana trees, you'll need to cut down the tree, scoop out a bit of the stump's center and then wait for the water from the roots to rise up and fill your makeshift bowl.
- Plants that have moist pulpy centers can be squeezed or smashed so you can collect the moisture within. For roots, you will need to cut the pieces into smaller ones before smashing them so you can collect water.
- Lastly, you can use the vegetation as a source of heavy dew (Would we call that Veggie Dew?)
2.) Another hidden cache of water in the wilderness and a forest is the ground.
Just like in the desert, you’ll need to look for certain clues that will tell you where to dig. Muddy or damp soil is usually an indication that there is water in the ground. Birds, bees, mosquitoes, and other kinds of wildlife will usually show you where there is a water source, even if it’s just a small puddle in a dry river bed. To collect groundwater, dig a one-foot-deep hole and wait for water to fill it.
While none of these water sources will come close to satisfying your thirst like a icy pitcher of water, every little bit of water increases your chances of survival. So, the next time you find yourself in need of possible water sources, keep in mind that the obvious ones are not your only choices. The hidden caches of water just might be right under your fingertips.