1.Look for critters
Just like you, animals need water every day to ensure that they stay healthy. If you see an animal nearby, you know that water isn’t far away, says Brandon Garrett of The Ready Store, which offers emergency preparedness solutions. Likewise, vegetation is a good sign that water is near, since most plants require it to stay alive, he adds.
If you don’t catch sight of plants or animals, you should note whether mosquitoes are biting, because they are another indicator that water isn’t far away.
However, make sure the mosquitoes aren’t simply gathering around stagnant water, which is typically unsafe to drink. “If you’re looking for water over long distances, look where the birds are circling,” Garrett says. “They’ll often circle around waterholes.”
Silver is not gold: Where You Won’t Find Water
If you need to drink from a cactus, locate a barrel or prickly pear cactus, both of which contain a pulp that can provide you with water.
2.Look in unlikely spots
If you don’t see water nearby, don’t panic you might be able to find it with a bit of effort. If you are in a low elevation, you should be able to dig a hole until water appears, Garrett says. “However, being at higher elevations doesn’t necessarily mean that you can dig down and automatically find water,” he says. Instead, he advises, you can look for water in valleys or crevices of rocks, where it tends to accumulate.
Although plants indicate that water is nearby, it isn’t always possible for you to cut one open and drink from it, despite what you see in movies. “A popular myth is that you can drink any water from a cactus,” Garrett says. “But cacti often store water in a gooey juice that isn’t fit for human consumption.
Consider these unlikely water sources
If you’re desperate for a drink, the last thing you’ll want to do is eat something, because it may make your throat dry—and your body utilizes water in digestion, which you don’t have to spare.
However, some foods can actually provide you with water. Check out this list of water-dense foods, all of which have a water content of more than 90 percent. If you happen to pass some growing in the wild, consider stopping for a snack:
If you need to drink from a cactus, locate a barrel or prickly pear cactus. They both contain a pulp that you can eat to provide you with water. Make sure that the juice is clear before you eat the pulp.” Other plants also contain water, and you can get to it by crushing the plant until water leaks out.
However, ensure that the plant isn’t poisonous first and that it hasn’t been treated with pesticides, which can be toxic. “If you’re out in the wild, you’re less likely to come across plants that have been treated with pesticide or other man-made products,” Garrett says.
3.Don’t forget dew
If you fall asleep thirsty, you may still awaken to a vast water source dew that collects on the leaves and grass during the night.
You can either soak up the dew with a clean rag and then wring it into a container, or hold the dewy leaves over a jar and “wipe” the water down into the jar. Because dew collects in small amounts, this process may be time-consuming, but it could also be a lifesaver.
Avoid quenching your thirst this way
When you’re thirsty, it may be tempting to drink the first fluid that you see, but some water sources are dangerous and can make you extremely ill. Stay away from these options when it’s time to wet your whistle:
- Never drink salt water, because the excessive amount of salt can lead you to actually become more dehydrated, putting a strain on your organs, especially your kidneys.
- Avoid drinking untreated standing water or water from a swamp. Standing water contains bacteria that can hurt you if it isn’t treated or thoroughly sanitized through boiling or other means.
- We’ve all heard survival stories of people who drank their own urine to survive, but although this won’t kill you immediately, it isn’t a long-term water source, because urine contains waste products that can, over time, damage your kidneys. You can drink your urine for a few days at the most while you seek a fresh water solution.