WATER, PART 3 - LOOKING FOR WATER IN NATURE: Bugging Out
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
This is the 3rd installation in a 5-part series on procuring water in a disaster situation. This section focuses on what to do when "bugging OUT" (grabbing your go-bag and getting the heck out of town).
Previously, in WATER, PART 2 - LOOKING FOR WATER: Top 5 Hidden Sources In Urban Surroundings, we discussed finding sources of water during an emergency when "bugging IN" (staying in your apartment/home/urban environment). Read the introductory blog of this series, "WATER, WATER, NEVERWHERE", for the whole story.
After you have depleted your original backup water storage (see STEP 1 of the blog for storing and building up a preventative emergency water supply), foraging for new sources is the second step in securing and maintaining a lifesaving supply of water. A rural environment has its own accesses to water you should look for: Manmade sources, fielded/wooded areas, snow, or sometimes in desert sands/dirt.
No matter if you're in the desert or woods, there are a few constants you can generally rely on in order to locate water. Look for where fresh vegetation has popped up, any depressions in the ground and foothills, and utilize water-containing plants and condensation.
Always follow the critters! Animals, animal trails, droppings, lines of ants, insects, or circling birds are all very good indicators of available water nearby.
Your best bet to find water is to go to the lowest land points, where you can dig for underground water or use the seeping technique (in the next blog installment, Part 4, I will go over the process of how to collect and use this water).
When traveling, oft-forgotten places to find water are the personal wells, windmills, water tanks, dams, and irrigation canals, especially throughout country farmlands. Also, many State Wildlife Parks have sustainable rainwater collectors called "guzzlers" which will self-replenish when it rains.
A great water find while out in the woods is a running stream. BUT, even if you find a nice body of water, don't assume the water is okay to drink straight from the source: Animals poop in it! Upstream! Or- worse, how would you like to be drinking directly from a stream and see a dead animal carcass float by? The risk of drinking nonfiltered water directly from the stream can range from ingesting cysts such as Cryptosporidium, microorganisms such as Giardia, bacteria, viruses, lead, or other pathogens. Therefore, do not skimp on the filtering!
In the absence of a body of fresh water, don't neglect the other obvious natural sources of water: rainfall and dew. If you don't have something to use as a rain barrell, a tarp can always be rigged in the trees or over your tent to collect the rain and early morning condensation. More creative ways to gather and contain this water will be covered in the next blog entry, PART 4 - COLLECTING THE WATER: An easy DIY step; different ways how-to gather water and prepare it for filtering.
Plants and trees are a convenient location to find useable water. The tree's main fork, or crux, will lead you to water; either collected in the tree's hollow itself, or trickling down to the base of the tree. The condensation on leaves will provide fairly clear water, although not much at a time. Water-containing plants, such as cacti, bamboo, vines, palms, plantain/banana trees, and unripened coconuts all contain drinkable liquid. This is when you will need your go-bag's machete or equivalent blade to cut them open. NOTE: Do not eat the interior pulp of cacti or mature coconut; just squeeze the juice out and discard the pulp. The pulp is a laxative.
Rock formations are a good place for water to gather, especially if the rocks have indentations in them to catch the rain. Look to the bases of cliffs for small waterfalls trickling down the formations, and the resulting puddles on the ground you can gather and purify.
If stuck in a desert area, water is still available, albeit hidden. In addition to the other tricks in this blog, the desert provides its own challenges and its own solutions.
Firstly, the cacti plant does have water inside of it. You will need a sharp blade to cut it open. Suck out the juice and spit out the pulp.
Dig! Concave ground in banks, depressions in dry creek beds or behind sand dunes, wet sand, and areas of vegetation are all indications of water present beneath the top layer of the ground.
In the desert, any metal can be used to leave out overnight and collect condensation. Metal can also be used to heat up an unclean water supply and help distill it.
SNOW AND SEA
Snow and ice is only as clean as its water was; any off-colored snow or grey sea snow (made of salt water) should not be used. You MUST melt the snow before purifying and drinking. Even if it's made from fresh water, ice will lower your body temperature and cause more dehydration.
In case you are out on a boat and salty water is the only option available, use the topmost ice caps (if possible) instead of just the sea water, and melt before desalinating and filtering. NOTE: Just because the water was ice does NOT mean you can get away without desalting it. You MUST desalt any sea or salty water before drinking (filtering and desalinazation will be covered in Part 5 - The Last 2 Steps: PREFILTERING AND FILTERING THE WATER)
NEXT, PART 4 - COLLECTING THE WATER: An easy DIY step; different ways how-to gather water and prepare it for filtering.
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