Stranded without water? Don’t panic, it’s probably much closer than you think.
Rainwater is perfectly drinkable water as it falls from the sky. Gather it in clean containers BEFORE it touches any other surface. After it touches the ground or dirty surface, it must be considered contaminated and you will need to go through the treatment process.
The morning dew
The morning dew is the simplest method to get perfectly drinkable water but be careful where you gather it. The safest method is to gather dew from your lawn using a rag, a sponge or some other absorbent material and wring it into a clean container. Tie rags to your ankles and swish them in the grass. On a heavily dew-filled morning you can collect about ten gallons of water an hour. This water is perfectly safe, and is drinkable the way it is. However, if there is any question of contamination from any source, e.g. animal excreta or chemical residues from petrol or pesticides then you should go through the treatment process.
Trees, such as sycamore, cottonwood and willow are usually good indicators of water as they need a great deal themselves and have extensive root structures to suck water from the ground. If you see reeds you can be pretty sure water will be under them as they thrive in swampy ground.
Place a plastic bag (with no holes) around the branch of a non-poisonous plant and tie it securely to the branch with wire or string. The plant produces water vapor, which it releases into the atmosphere. This moisture will condense on the inside of the bag. After a while a sufficient amount of water will gather in the corner of the bag. Cut a small hole in the lowest corner and sip the condensed water.
The beavertail cactus is considered to be edible water. This low, spreading cactus with short bristles grows 6 to 12 inches high and up to 6 feet wide. The gray-green, jointed stems are wide and flat resembling the tail of a beaver. Oval in shape, the stems are 1 to 6 inches wide and 2 to 13 inches long. The stems grow in clumps with flowers from the top edge of the joints. Flowers are followed by a brownish-gray, oval fruit more than an inch long with many seeds. Choose a robust plant. Singe off the spines in an open flame. Slice off the outer skin of the plant and eat the pulp.
… and animals
All animal trails lead to water. Follow them downhill by looking for animals’ footprints, spoor, broken grasses or twigs. Watch where insects and birds are flying, they need water too. Follow the sounds of frogs that live in creek beds and small ponds. Look around for natural depressions and ravines that could have been created by a once great river that is now just a trickle.
In a creek bed, even if no running water is visible, damp sand or mud indicates that there is water present. Dig down and wait for the water to fill the hole. Water can often be found below the surface under large boulders even though the ground may appear dry.
In the outside environment you are better off dealing with running moving water than you are with anything that is stagnant, that has pooled, or just doesn’t look healthy. Be cautious of water from a lake. By the time the water has collected in the lake, it may have collected a host of pollutants and contaminants along the way. It is a much better idea to find the feeder stream entering the lake. A running stream is a great source of water but it must still be considered contaminated.
Though freshly fallen snow may be drinkable without treatment you should always warm and melt it before letting it enter your system. Be aware that bacteria are very commonly found in old snow and ice so always treat it before drinking. Do not collect water from caves, mines, agricultural areas, railroads, roadsides, timber farms and any other areas that may be heavily polluted with herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals.
Survival tip: Before you gather any water look around and check if the plants and animals nearby are healthy.
CHECK OUT OUR ARTICLE ON TREATING DRINKING WATER HERE.