In a wilderness survival situation, particularly one where you likely aren’t going to be found in the immediate future, locating a source of water can be critical. Sure, having the means to filter and disinfect it is important, too, but you have to find it first, right?
Where to look for natural sources of water
Here are a few tips on finding natural sources of water.
1. First, if there are animals in the area, and there are almost always critters around, they need water just as much as you do. Let them do the work for you. Follow game trails, if you can find them, as they will almost surely lead to a water source. Generally speaking, trails that lead downhill and/or seem to converge with other trails will lead you to water.
Watch our feathered friends. They will often visit a water source in the morning and in the evening. Keep an eye out for them flying overhead and follow in that direction. Birds heading to a water source tend to fly in a straight line and rather fast. After visiting the water source, they may fly in a more meandering type of way.
2. Keep in mind that water doesn’t run uphill very well. You’ll have much better luck looking in low spots like valleys than you will by going to the top of a ridge (unless it is just for a higher vantage point).
3. Look for dry riverbeds and dig down in spots where the river takes a sharp bend, concentrating your efforts on the outside bank of the bend.
4. You’ll get more bang for your buck, so to speak, by melting ice instead of snow if you have the choice. There is an awful lot of airspace in snow and what seems like a lot in the pot ends up being not so much. Either way, avoid just popping the frozen water into your mouth and letting it melt. Doing so cools down your core temperature, which isn’t a good thing. Instead, put the ice or snow into a plastic bag or other container and keep it under your coat, letting your body heat melt it first.
5. Collect dew in the early morning by tying bandanas or other cloths to your legs and walking through high grass. Pause regularly to wring out the water into a container. If you’re stuck near a vehicle or something along those lines, you can wipe the dew off with a cloth and wring it out, too. You might not get a ton of water with dew collection but every little bit adds up.
6. If you have a garbage bag or other large plastic bag, tie it over the end of a leafy branch, tossing a small rock into the bag first. The rock will weigh down a corner of the bag. Over the course of several hours, water will condense out from the leaves and drip to the bottom of the bag. Either remove the bag, being careful to not spill any of the water, or cut off the corner and then tie a knot in the bag to keep it working for you.
7. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, solar stills aren’t usually worth the effort. A solar still consists of a large hole dug in the ground with a plastic sheet stretched over the top. A rock is placed at the center of the plastic and a container placed in the hole directly underneath. Over time, water will condense on the bottom of the plastic and drip down into the container. It is a lot of work to dig that hole and the water you’ll get for your efforts is often minimal. But, it is something to consider if you’ve run out of all other options.
Water is a critical element of survival. While our bodies could last up to a few days without hydration, you really don’t want to be a test case. Any time you’re out in the wild, make note of water sources as you travel.
More resources for water purification
- Big Berkey Water Filtration System — dependable brand, recommended
- Katadyn Gravity Water Filter — 1 to 6 persons
- Lifestraw Personal Water Filter — inexpensive and lightweight
- The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide by Daisy Luther
- Sawyer Mini Water Filter — a good size for emergency kits. I keep one in my suitcase for family travel.
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford
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12 thoughts on “7 Tips for Finding Natural Sources of Water”
Identify the types of trees that tend to grow in moist soil around lakes, rivers, and streams such as cypress, willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, and maples. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/tgen/wet-soil-trees.htm
Good advice, especially about discarding the solar still, except as a last resort. Thanks for the article, for this is one that just might save someone’s life after teotwawki. God bless.
Nice to see more and more writers figuring out that solar stills are a waste of time. I’d suggest everyone build at least one to realize how much effort – and moisture – is used.
Here’s a post from survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt about finding water in the desert https://www.survivalcommonsense.com/peter-kummerfeldt-finding-water-in-the-desertfeed/
I have never made a solar still (living in MI its easy to find water) but I noticed when describing the still you didn’t mention about placing vegetation around your collection pot. Have they changed the way to make the still over the years?
A small cloud hanging over one spot in a clear sky almost always is a lake below.
the cloud will hold even in moderate wind.
Even though the city water pipes don’t have pressure there still may be a lot of water in the pipes.
One pipe we just worked on had 1.5M gallons between valves. that was deep,
most city water pipes are shallow, 4 feet.
You might even try pulling up sword ferns that seem to grow everywhere. The long ones that look like, well swords. Collect the round noduals they are a source of water storage and edible.
I have been told that peeing in the hole before you set up the solar still, it will be much more productive as it will pull pure water vapor out of the moisture. This is the closest I think I’d come to pulling a Bear Grylls.
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Great tips there!! I didn’t have an idea that early dew can become a source of water.
Thank you for sharing.
Awesome tips! Liked the idea about discarding the solar still. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I am very curious about fresh water scarcity in the world. Some of the countries are facing this problem and will face more next in the upcoming years. Do more afforestation can solve this problem?