Purifying Water For Survival

Chapter 4: Choosing Potential Water Sources

Choosing Potential Water Sources

Whether you are in the wilderness or a disaster has made even your home a survival situation, you need to be able to locate potential water sources that may be available. In this chapter you will discover some of the potential water sources that could make the difference in surviving a disaster or when lost in the wilderness.

Considering Water Sources

When it comes to choosing the best sources for your water, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are in a situation caused by a natural disaster in or near your city, be aware that the water you are used to using is likely no longer safe.

Water in wells, ponds and lakes may be contaminated due to ruptured sewer lines and spilled chemicals from local businesses. Rather than relying on the water close to home, your best bet is to go to areas that are removed from the heart of the disaster and city to find water sources that may not be affected.

The Best Potential Water Sources

When it comes to the best sources for potable water, there are actually a few viable options that are less dangerous than others. While you should still take proper precautions, the following options generally provide cleaner water than some of the other options that may be available to you.


If you are in a rural area or in the wilderness, rainwater is an excellent option for slaking your thirst and keeping your body going – especially if you can’t use any of the previous methods for cleaning and purifying the water. All you really need to do is set up any containers you can find to catch the rain as it falls.
If you want to ensure the safety of the water, attempt to collect only that which does not fall through trees or drip off of something. Water collected in these situations could easily become contaminated as it makes its way into your container.
Rain directly from the sky, without anything to hinder its path, is the safest option for those in survival situations. If you do not have access to containers for collecting, there are a few things you can use in a pinch:

• Tie a poncho to trees, vines or sticks so that it is off of the ground. Make sure it can dip down in the middle to create a bowl to catch the rainwater.

• Any kind of clean plastic or waterproof sheeting can be used in the same way. If you do not have any kind of container, make sure the sag is deeper so that you can use it as a water bag if necessary.

• If you are planning on boiling the water, you can create bowls and containers out of bark or wood. Use a rock to hollow out larger pieces of wood to create a container. If you have to use bark, use several layers of folded bark to create a basin.

• If you have an animal hide with you, that can be used to collect rainwater as well. If the hide has not been treated in any way, you will want to make sure you boil the water as well for added safety.

Snow and Ice

If you are in an area where it is snowing or has recently done so, you can use the snow and ice as water. However, if you did not catch it in your own containers, you will want to boil it to make sure there are not errant organisms from the ground or animals that may have passed over it.
For those who are near the sea in cold climates, you will need to take care with the ice that you choose. Fresh sea ice, which is evident by the grey or milky color and sharp edges, should not be used as a source of water. However, old ice from the sea, which has a black or bluish tint and breaks easily, can be used providing you use the proper purification methods before drinking it.
Under no circumstances should you ever eat snow or ice before melting it. Doing so will result in your body temperature lowering, which could be dangerous on its own depending on where you may be stranded. Additionally, eating the snow and ice can also exacerbate dehydration when your body temperature drops.


When you are in an area that has vegetation, you can also find potable water. If there are any coconuts or fruits growing in the area, you can use those for liquid. While it won’t be water, the liquid content will provide much needed hydration for your body.
Cacti, bamboo and palm trees can also provide water. If you can find a way to tap these options, you will be able to collect enough over a period of time to keep you going.
If green bamboo is available, bend the tree down so that the top is around one foot off of the ground and secure it. Cut off the top few inches of the tree and place a bottle or other type of container beneath it. After several hours or overnight, you will have clear water that you can drink without having to purify it if you are unable to do so.

Moving Water Sources

Any form of moving water, such as a stream, river or lake, is also a good option for drinkable water. However, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you don’t endanger yourself by drinking potentially contaminated water.

• While it is always a good idea to follow wildlife to a water source, remember that animals are not all that clean. Many may eliminate in the water as they are drinking, which means that any parasites and bacteria in their feces or urine will end up in the water.

• Runoff from other areas can contain chemicals and pesticides.

• Even though the water may be clear, if you have the means available to boil or purify it you should do so to protect against consuming pathogens and other contaminants.


Groundwater is also a viable source for water in a survival situation. If you find an area that appears muddy, you may be able to find water as well, though it may take a little time.
In the muddy area, dig a one-foot by one-foot hole. You will need to wait a bit, but you may also discover that the hole actually fills up quickly. Once you have water in the hole, you will need to strain it with layers of cloth or another filtration method as it will be muddy as well.

After filtering, you will also want to make sure that you purify any water that you collect from the ground. There is an increased potential for parasites, bacteria, viruses and heavy metals in water that you get directly from the ground.
One caveat, however, is if you are lucky enough to find an underground spring from which you can collect water directly. This type of water is typically safer to drink than other available options.

Coastline Water

While everyone knows not to drink sea water due to the high salt content, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of being near a coastline. All you need to do is to create a beach well in order to obtain usable water.
To build your beach well, choose a spot that is a minimum of 100 feet from the waterline – it is also a good idea to make sure you know how far the tide comes in so you don’t lose the water you collect. Dig a hole that is three to five feet deep and place rocks in the bottom.

You will also want to line the side of the well with wood if possible to help make sure the sides don’t begin to cave in while you are waiting for it to fill up. Wait a few hours and the hole will fill up with up to five gallons of water.
The water obtained with a beach well may still be salty. If so, move the location of your well farther from the waterline. Even though the sand acts as a sediment filter with this method, you will still want to filter and/or boil the water to make sure it is as safe as possible to drink.

Important Considerations

When thirst has become intense or your body is already feeling the effects of dehydration, finding one of these sources could send you into overdrive. However, any time you make the decision to drink water that you find without boiling or purifying it, you are taking the risk of introducing any number of dangerous organisms and contaminants into your own body.
Additionally, there are also some bodies of water that you should not consider when it comes to your own health, safety and survival. These include:

• Water sources near roadways – these can contain a number of harmful pollutants that may be impossible to remove through purification.

• Water that is located downriver from areas where factories, industrial sites and cities or towns are located. Water from these sources can be filled with chemicals, bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides and other pollutants that boiling and purification may not be able to remove properly.

• Water that is located near or that has passed through lands that are used for agriculture. The water is likely to contain high amounts of pesticides and fertilizers due to runoff from the crops.

• Water sources that are located downriver or near sites of mines. Mining can release a number of dangerous elements that can find their way into the water. These can include arsenic, cyanide, mercury and heavy metals.

• Marshes and swamps – These sources are generally filled with stagnant water that acts as a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

• Water that contains algae. While not all forms of algae are dangerous some are due to the toxins they release into the water. In a survival situation, avoiding all

algae will keep you safer, especially once dehydration sets in and you can’t think as clearly.

While the water may provide you with the hydration you need, if you don’t reach safety and medical attention quickly, those bacteria and other organisms can make you seriously ill and even result in death.


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