Water is a valuable commodity and this is never more evident than in a survival situation. Water is your main concern before food and shelter. Knowing how to procure water is essential to everyone’s survival.
Water can be obtained by various methods to include plants, hardwood trees, and the ground itself. Obviously, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are another water source. However, water obtained from standing pools, rivers, lakes or streams must be purified before it is safe to drink.
You might naturally assume that small streams or creeks deep in the woods would be free of contaminates. This is not the case though. Animals and other humans may very well have contaminated the water. Additionally, water will contain bacterium from various sources such as animal waste and the naturally occurring bacteria in nature will be present.
Things to Look For Around a Water Source
You want signs of animal activity around a water source, such as birds and mammals, as well as, insects. This usually indicates the water is not chemically contaminated. Animals and insects can drink water contaminated with bacteria without any ill effects whereas humans cannot.
Even though, there are no chemical pollutants, the water it is still not safe for human consumption without first properly purifying.
How to Procure Water from Trees and Plants
Hardwoods such as maple (Acer), oak (Quercus), walnut (Juglans regia), hickory (Carya) and birch (Betula) will secrete sap if small holes are made in the tree. Do not ring the tree with cuts because this may kill the tree. Small holes, such as the ones used to harvest maple syrup, will suffice. Simply bore a hole with your knife or make slanted diagonal slits in the tree after removing a small section of the bark. The tree will produce small amounts of sap that can immediately be consumed. Early spring is the ideal time, but trees can produce sap at virtually anytime except in extreme cold weather. Having a means to collect the sap is ideal; otherwise simply drink straight from the tree.
All the common species of thistles (Tribe: Cardueae Geni: Arctium, Carduus, Cirsium) can be harvested for water. Once the thistles have been removed, the pulpy stalk can be squeezed to extract the water or eaten. The plant will contain some nutrients so eating the stalks is ideal.
Remember: simply having the plant described to you is not an adequate means of identification. Before a day hike or camping trip you should research various plants so you can make a positive identification when out in the woods.
Certain cacti such as that in the Opuntia genus (Prickly Pear) contain potable water, as well. The cactus can also be eaten or squeezed to extract the water.
The Earth’s Soil Is One of the Best Water Filtration Systems There Is
Once you find a stream, lake or even a pond, you can dig small depressions next to the water. Typically, the soil next to a body of water will contain sand and small gravel, which acts as a filtration system. The small depressions will fill with ground water. This water is normally safe to drink. Filter the sediment out by wrapping your cup or canteen mouth with some cloth and dip the vessel into the depression. Contaminates contained in the water will have been filtered out by the soil.
However, do not dig a channel from the body of water to collect in the depression. The water must bubble up from the ground. This perking of water assures you that the ground has filtered it, and has made the water safe for drinking.
How to Procure Water Using Rain Gear or a Poncho and Even Plastic Sheeting
Many of you may have walked outside in the morning during the summer months and have found your vehicle’s windshield is covered in moisture. The moisture collected on outside surfaces overnight is called dew. Dew is caused by the sun heating the moisture in the atmosphere during the day and the cooling at night allows it to condensate on surfaces, such as a windshield.
Dew can be collected by draping your poncho, rain gear or plastic over a bush at night. Place the material so there are small depressions to collect the dew. Avoid placing the collection station under trees; having an open spot is ideal for maximum collection. Plastic and or your rain gear can also be used to collect rainwater. Dig a small depression in the ground, place the material over the hole and secure the sides with rocks. Place a smaller rock in the center to create a funnel effect.
Monitor the water source carefully or cover to prevent contamination by animals and insects. Ensure water is not allowed to run off from the ground’s surface into the collection pool.
How to Procure Water Directly From the Ground Using a Solar Distiller
To make a solar water distiller or water still you will need clear or semi-clear plastic and the means to dig a small hole. The distiller works by sweating or distilling moisture from the ground. The plastic sheeting needs to be big enough to cover the hole and allow slack to form a depression. Plastic can easily be stored in any pack by folding or rolling up tightly. Keep in mind when digging the hole, the larger the depression, the more water you will collect. This process is similar to a glass of liquid sweating in a warm room. Heat transfers from hot to cold so as the ground and plants warm, the heat will transfer from the ground to the cooler air. This process leaves the moisture behind on the plastic.
Once dug if the soil looks dry you can place non-poisonous green plants in the hole. The sun will also sweat the moisture from the plants. Place the plastic over the hole and secure the sides with rocks. Place a small rock in the center to form a funnel. You can make a hole in the plastic and place a cup in the depression to collect the water or simply scoop it from the plastic. Soon the ground and any plants in the hole will begin to heat up. You will see condensation on the plastic relatively quickly. Leave the distiller to do its work until the air begins to cool after sundown. The water will then condensate and begin dripping down the sides of the plastic.
You may have an additional water source but you simply have no means of purification. You can use the source to enhance the distiller by pouring water around the hole. Do not pour the water in the hole. You want the ground to filter the water and have the moisture seep from the ground into the depression you have dug. This will increase the distillers output. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to obtain up 4 liters or more of safe drinking water daily using a solar water distiller.
Backpack Essentials for Procuring Water
Knowing how to procure water is one thing however; having the essentials to do so is another:
- Clear Plastic
- Fixed Bladed Knife As Well As A Multi-Purpose Tool Use The Hole Punch Blade To Bore Holes
- Trenching Tool
- Stainless Steel Vessel To Collect And Store Water
- Water Straws For Easier Collection Of Tree Sap