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CHAPTER 6 - WATER PROCUREMENT
Water is one of your most urgent needs in a
survival situation. You can' t live long without it, especially in hot areas
where you lose water rapidly through perspiration. Even in cold areas, you
need a minimum of 2 liters of water each day to maintain efficiency.
More than three-fourths of your body is composed
of fluids. Your body loses fluid as a result of heat, cold, stress, and
exertion. To function effectively, you must replace the fluid your body loses.
So, one of your first goals is to obtain an adequate supply of water.
Almost any environment has water present to some
degree. Figure 6-1 lists possible sources of water in
various environments. It also provides information on how to make the water
Note: If you do not have a canteen, a cup, a can,
or other type of container, improvise one from plastic or water-resistant
cloth. Shape the plastic or cloth into a bowl by pleating it. Use pins or
other suitable items--even your hands--to hold the pleats.
If you do not have a reliable source to replenish
your water supply, stay alert for ways in which your environment can help you.
Do not substitute the
fluids listed in Figure 6-2 for water.
Heavy dew can provide water.
Tie rags or tufts of fine grass around your ankles and walk through dew-covered
grass before sunrise. As the rags or grass tufts absorb the dew, wring the water
into a container. Repeat the process until you have a supply of water or until
the dew is gone. Australian natives sometimes mop up as much as a liter an hour
Bees or ants going into a hole in a tree may
point to a water-filled hole. Siphon the water with plastic tubing or scoop it
up with an improvised dipper. You can also stuff cloth in the hole to absorb the
water and then wring it from the cloth.
Water sometimes gathers in tree crotches or rock
crevices. Use the above procedures to get the water. In arid
areas, bird droppings around a crack in the rocks may indicate water in or near
Green bamboo thickets are an excellent source of
fresh water. Water from green bamboo is clear and odorless. To get the water,
bend a green bamboo stalk, tie it down, and cut off the top (Figure
6-3). The water will drip freely during the night. Old, cracked bamboo may
Purify the water before
Wherever you find banana or plantain trees, you
can get water. Cut down the tree, leaving about a 30-centimeter stump, and scoop
out the center of the stump so that the hollow is bowl-shaped. Water from the
roots will immediately start to fill the hollow. The first three fillings of
water will be bitter, but succeeding fillings will be palatable. The stump (Figure
6-4) will supply water for up to four days. Be sure to cover it to keep out
Some tropical vines can give you water. Cut a
notch in the vine as high as you can reach, then cut the vine off close to the
ground. Catch the dropping liquid in a container or in your mouth (Figure
Do not drink the liquid if
it is sticky, milky, or bitter tasting.
The milk from green (unripe) coconuts is a good
thirst quencher. However, the milk from mature coconuts contains an oil that
acts as a laxative. Drink in moderation only.
In the American tropics you may find large trees
whose branches support air plants. These air plants may hold a considerable
amount of rainwater in their overlapping, thickly growing leaves. Strain the
water through a cloth to remove insects and debris.
You can get water from plants with moist pulpy
centers. Cut off a section of the plant and squeeze or smash the pulp so that
the moisture runs out. Catch the liquid in a container.
Plant roots may provide water. Dig or pry the
roots out of the ground, cut them into short pieces, and smash the pulp so that
the moisture runs out. Catch the liquid in a container.
Fleshy leaves, stems, or stalks, such as bamboo,
contain water. Cut or notch the stalks at the base of a joint to drain out the
The following trees can also provide water:
Palms, such as the buri, coconut, sugar, rattan, and nips, contain liquid.
Bruise a lower frond and pull it down so the tree will "bleed" at
Found in Madagascar, this tree has a cuplike sheath at the base of its leaves
in which water collects.
The leaf bases and roots of this tree of western tropical Africa can provide
This tree of the sandy plains of northern Australia and Africa collects water
in its bottlelike trunk during the wet season. Frequently, you can find clear,
fresh water in these trees after weeks of dry weather.
Do not keep the sap from plants longer
than 24 hours. It begins fermenting, becoming dangerous as a water
You can use stills in various areas of the world.
They draw moisture from the ground and from plant material. You need certain
materials to build a still, and you need time to let it collect the water. It
takes about 24 hours to get 0.5 to 1 liter of water.
To make the aboveground still, you need a sunny
slope on which to place the still, a clear plastic bag, green leafy vegetation,
and a small rock (Figure 6-6).
To make the still--
- Fill the bag with air by turning the opening
into the breeze or by "scooping" air into the bag.
- Fill the plastic bag half to three-fourths
full of green leafy vegetation. Be sure to remove all hard sticks or sharp
spines that might puncture the bag.
Do not use poisonous
vegetation. It will provide poisonous liquid.
- Place a small rock or similar item in the bag.
- Close the bag and tie the mouth securely as
close to the end of the bag as possible to keep the maximum amount of air
space. If you have a piece of tubing, a small straw, or a hollow reed,
insert one end in the mouth of the bag before you tie it securely. Then tie
off or plug the tubing so that air will not escape. This tubing will allow
you to drain out condensed water without untying the bag.
- Place the bag, mouth downhill, on a slope in
full sunlight. Position the mouth of the bag slightly higher than the low
point in the bag.
- Settle the bag in place so that the rock works
itself into the low point in the bag.
To get the condensed water from the still, loosen
the tie around the bag's mouth and tip the bag so that the water collected
around the rock will drain out. Then retie the mouth securely and reposition the
still to allow further condensation.
Change the vegetation in the bag after extracting
most of the water from it. This will ensure maximum output of water.
To make a belowground still, you need a digging
tool, a container, a clear plastic sheet, a drinking tube, and a rock (Figure
Select a site where you believe the soil will
contain moisture (such as a dry stream bed or a low spot where rainwater has
collected). The soil at this site should be easy to dig, and sunlight must hit
the site most of the day.
To construct the still--
- Dig a bowl-shaped hole about 1 meter across
and 60 centimeters deep.
- Dig a sump in the center of the hole. The
sump's depth and perimeter will depend on the size of the container that you
have to place in it. The bottom of the sump should allow the container to
- Anchor the tubing to the container's bottom by
forming a loose overhand knot in the tubing.
- Place the container upright in the sump.
- Extend the unanchored end of the tubing up,
over, and beyond the lip of the hole.
- Place the plastic sheet over the hole,
covering its edges with soil to hold it in place.
- Place a rock in the center of the plastic
- Lower the plastic sheet into the hole until it
is about 40 centimeters below ground level. It now forms an inverted cone
with the rock at its apex. Make sure that the cone's apex is directly over
your container. Also make sure the plastic cone does not touch the sides of
the hole because the earth will absorb the condensed water.
- Put more soil on the edges of the plastic to
hold it securely in place and to prevent the loss of moisture.
- Plug the tube when not in use so that the
moisture will not evaporate.
You can drink water without disturbing the still
by using the tube as a straw.
You may want to use plants in the hole as a
moisture source. If so, dig out additional soil from the sides of the hole to
form a slope on which to place the plants. Then proceed
If polluted water is your only moisture source,
dig a small trough outside the hole about 25 centimeters from the still's lip (Figure
6-8). Dig the trough about 25 centimeters deep and 8 centimeters wide. Pour
the polluted water in the trough. Be sure you do not spill any polluted water
around the rim of the hole where the plastic sheet touches the soil. The trough
holds the polluted water and the soil filters it as the still draws it. The
water then condenses on the plastic and drains into the container. This process
works extremely well when your only water source is salt water.
You will need at least three stills to meet your
individual daily water intake needs.
Rainwater collected in clean containers or in
plants is usually safe for drinking. However, purify water from lakes, ponds,
swamps, springs, or streams, especially the water near human settlements or in
When possible, purify all water you got from
vegetation or from the ground by using iodine or chlorine, or by boiling.
Purify water by--
- Using water purification tablets. (Follow the
- Placing 5 drops of 2 percent tincture of
iodine in a canteen full of clear water. If the canteen is full of cloudy or
cold water, use 10 drops. (Let the canteen of water stand for 30 minutes
- Boiling water for 1 minute at sea level,
adding 1 minute for each additional 300 meters above sea level, or boil for
10 minutes no matter where you are.
By drinking nonpotable water you may contract
diseases or swallow organisms that can harm you. Examples of such diseases or
Severe, prolonged diarrhea with bloody stools, fever, and weakness.
Cholera and typhoid.
You may be susceptible to these diseases regardless of inoculations.
polluted water--especially in tropical areas--often contains blood flukes. If
you swallow flukes, they will bore into the bloodstream, live as parasites,
and cause disease.
If you swallow a leech, it can hook onto the throat passage or inside the
nose. It will suck blood, create a wound, and move to another area. Each
bleeding wound may become infected.
If the water you find is also muddy, stagnant,
and foul smelling, you can clear the water--
- By placing it in a container and letting it
stand for 12 hours.
- By pouring it through a filtering system.
Note: These procedures only clear the water and
make it more palatable. You will have to purify it.
To make a filtering system, place several
centimeters or layers of filtering material such as sand, crushed rock,
charcoal, or cloth in bamboo, a hollow log, or an article of clothing (Figure
Remove the odor from water by adding charcoal
from your fire. Let the water stand for 45 minutes before drinking it.