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Finding Water & Hydration

Before proceeding, please review Important Disclaimers about the information, resources & links contained in this website. The information provided below is for basic reference only and is not intended to be professional instruction.

Water can be found in virtually any outdoor environment. If you dig deep enough and in the right place, you can find the water table. In deciding where to dig, use common sense. Shaded areas, muddy ground, low spots and vegetation-rich areas are more likely to contain water than dried out, high-spots with little or no plant life. 

Look for water in the following places:

  • Muddy or damp ground.
  • Shaded sand dunes, especially large and steep ones.
  • Areas with water-craving vegetation such as willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, salt grass and elderberries.
  • Base of cliffs with moderate or dense vegetation.

Other places to find and gather water:

  • Morning dew from plants and rocks (mop up with a towel or shirt).
  • Rain water collected in sandstone ridges, canyon and rock pockets (generally exists on higher ground).
  • Animal tracks or circling birds leading to a water hole.

Always purify suspect water before drinking.

Things to avoid:

  • DO NOT assume that a water source is clean.
  • DO NOT extract water from poisonous plants.
  • DO NOT drink blood or urine.
  • DO NOT drink salt water.
  • DO NOT over-conserve water in a canteen.
  • DO NOT eat more than a minimal amount of food, as the act of digestion depletes body fluid.
  • DO NOT unnecessarily exert yourself.
  • DO NOT sit in the sunlight.

Other things to avoid:

  • Dew on poisonous plants.
  • Stagnant water with little or no signs of life.
  • Water holes with skeletal animal remains nearby.

For more detailed information about water procurement, see Chapter 6 ("Water Procurement") of the U.S. Army Survival Manual.

Importance of hydration:

The importance of hydration in a survival situation cannot be understated.

A special thanks to Emma (Girl Scout) who discovered this helpful resource on the medical importance of hydration:


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