The ability to find drinkable water is one of the most important survival skills you can learn. Once you start getting thirsty it can weaken your ability to think clearly. Dehydration is one of the most common problems associated with extreme survival situations. Dehydration can weaken, and kill! Lack of water affects your body’s ability to keep warm, and cool. Drink plenty of water when it is available and avoid eating too much food when water is not available.

Unpurified water can contain many harmful organisms that can make you sick, or even kill you. Other contaminant such as chemical waste can have a verity of effects, including death. If at all possible purify your water before drinking it.

If you’re faced with dehydration and no immediate means to purify your water source, then drink it; it is better to take a chance on contaminated water, than to die of dehydration (tell your doctor about the water as soon as possible).

No matter how thirsty you are, DO NOT drink the following for hydration:
Alcoholic Beverages
Sea Water
Any water source that is known to be contaminated with a toxic chemical, or biological contaminate should be avoided. If you have to drink from this type of contaminated water source, follow the instructions for purifying contaminated water (this does not guarantee the safety of the water).

Obtaining Water

If you do not have a cup, or canteen, you can improvise by using plastic, cloth, etc.
Cloth rags can be used for absorbing water & condensation.
A straw can help to extract water from crevices in rocks, trees, etc.
A large piece of plastic can be an invaluable tool for catching rain water and condensation.

Finding a Water Source

Look for areas that can collect water, such as:

  • Low areas
  • River beds
  • Depressions and holes in rocks
  • Areas of unusually green vegetation
  • Behind first sand dune of dry desert lakes

Look for animal activity:

  • Trails (go the direction that two trails converge)
  • Look for flocks of birds that may be circling over water holes

(Use caution, do not use if you’re unsure of the vegetation) (DO NOT drink if the water is milky, sticky, or bitter) (Do not keep water from plants for longer than 24 hours [fermentation can occur]) (Always purify your water if at all possible, even water obtained from vegetation!!!)

  • Leaf surface (can use a rag to absorb the water if needed)
  • Crevices between limbs
  • Air plants (American Tropics) (Strain in rag to filter & remove water)
  • The American Barrel Cactus (Suck on the pulp to obtain the juices, but DO NOT eat the pulp!)
  • Green Bamboo
    Cut the top off, and tie down low. Place a container to catch the drip.
  • Green Coconut (to much milk from a mature coconut will act as a laxative thus increasing dehydration)
  • Roots (Cut roots in pieces, and suck out the juices)
  • Vines
    Cut a notch in the vine as high as you can reach, then sever the bottom of the vine for the water. (The notch will help the vine to drain quicker) (DO NOT drink if the water is milky, sticky, or bitter)
  • Fruits
  • Banana trees
    Chop down, and carve out a bowl shape in the stump. Water will be collected from the roots.


  • Snow & Ice (snow & Ice can be a plentiful source of water) (melt before drinking; avoid eating snow or ice before melting, because they can cause a drop in body temperature, and lead to further dehydration)
  • Salt Water
    You can extract clean water from salt water using a Water Still, or a Water Still designed for polluted water. If you’re on a beach you can dig a hole in the sand, and let it fill with water. Start a fire and heat rocks (use caution, heating some rocks can cause them to explode like grenades). Drop the rocks in the hole, and use plastic to catch the evaporated water (similar to the water still method).
  • Condensation
    Condensation is a great way to get clean drinking water, but it can often take hours for a small amount of water. Using a large tarp, or sheet of plastic can help to collect large amounts of water from condensation. You can also use blankets or clothing to absorb moister. Another method is to tie rags to grass stalks to absorb morning/evening dew (use lots of them). You can use a rag to wipe condensation off of leaves, metal etc. Then wring out the rag, or suck on it to remove the water.

Water Stills

With a water still you can obtain clean drinkable water from vegetation or moister from the ground. With a water still it will take time to obtain water; as long as 24 hours for one pint. The best way to insure that you have plenty of drinkable water is by using several stills, and various other methods to procure water.

The Above Ground Water Still
What you will need:

  • A sunny slope
  • Non-Poisonous green vegetation
  • A clear plastic bag
  • A straw, or improvised straw (not a necessity, but it will allow you to remove the water without untying the bag).
  • A rock or similar weight

Survival - Above ground water still
Survival - Above ground water still

Fill the bag half full of green vegetation.
Place a small rock/weight into the bag.
Tie the end of the bag securely, while leaving it as full of air as possible.
Place the bag on a slope, allowing the rock/weight to settle in the lowest spot.
Once you have depleted the vegetation of most of its water, untie the bag to collect the water, or use the straw.


The Below Ground Water Still
What you will need:

  • A digging tool
  • A sheet of clear plastic (at least 4 feet square)
  • A rock or similar weight
  • A clean container with a wide mouth for catching your purified water
  • A long piece of tubing/straw (not a necessity, but it will allow you to remove the water without disturbing your still).
  • Non-Poisonous green vegetation (not necessary if you are extracting water from the soil, but it will help to add to your supply of drinkable water)

Survival - The Below Ground Water Still
Survival - The Below Ground Water Still

Dig a hole 3 feet in diameter by 2 feet deep in an area that is sunny, and has damp/wet soil (low lying areas such as a dry creek bed may have wet soil). If you are using vegetation then dig your hole with a slope and shelves for the vegetation.

Dig a hole the size of your water container in the center of your water still.

Place your container in the hole, add any vegetation, place your tubing into your container tying a lose knot in the end to hold it inside of the container, and cover the hole with plastic, allowing your tubing to stick out.

Use a weight (rock/soil) to hold down the outside edge of the plastic, and place a rock in the center.
Let the plastic dip into the hole about 15 inches below ground level, and center it over your clean container.

Cover the outside edges of the plastic with sand/soil, and plug/tie your tubing to prevent evaporation.

Using straw/tubing will give you the ability to sip water throughout the day without disturbing your water still.

Filtering & Purifying your water supply


Filtering water does not purify it, but only removes the debris!

You can filter out debris from your water by straining it through cloth, or you can make a water filter.

Using bamboo, a hollow log, pants leg, or compression bag you can layer sand, gravel, cloth, and crushed rocks to create a water filter. You can also add charcoal from your fire to remove any fowl odors.

Survival - Water Filter
Survival - Water Filter

You can purify water by boiling it, or use a commercial product like iodine tablets. Boiling water does not remove all microorganisms, but it does kill the majority of organisms that can harm you. Iodine tables are a great way to get drinkable water fast, but some people have allergic reactions to iodine (if your allergic to shellfish do not use iodine tablets). Iodine tablets should be used for emergency survival only, and should not be used over an extended period of time.

You can boil water by placing hot rocks in it and changing them out as they cool. This may not get the water to an adequate temperature for the length of time needed to kill as many organisms as conventional boiling, but it is one way to boil water when a non-fireproof pot is your only means to hold water (example: hat, hard plastic bowl, etc).

Most water obtained from condensation, or a Water Still does not need to be purified.

Purifying Polluted Water

Build an underground Water Still.
Dig a trench 3 inches wide, and 10 inches deep around your still (10 inches away from your still).
Pour the polluted water into the trench and wait for the still to collect the filtered evaporated water.

Survival - The contamination Below Ground Water Still
Survival - The contamination Below Ground Water Still

Don’t Forget

Unpurified water can contain many harmful organisms.


If you’re faced with dehydration and no immediate means to purify your water source, then drink it; it is better to take a chance on contaminated water, than to die of dehydration (tell your doctor about the water as soon as possible).

Lack of water can also impair your judgment, and will to survive.

Don’t forget that our ancestors drank out of rivers and ponds for thousands of years!!!