As the final installment in my series on water, I’d like to talk about finding sources of water in the wilderness. Now depending upon what part of the country you live in, this may be easier for some more than others. Here in the great Southwest, it can be darn hard to find water, especially in times of drought. For those of you living in the Pacific Northwest, finding water is probably very easy. I’ll expand on popular places to look and ways to obtain water when you don’t have any on you.
In the desert, water is often hard to find. Washes and riverbeds are sometimes your best bet. Dig alongside the edge; there is often some water left a foot or two underground. Look for low-lying areas like valleys; water will collect here. If you have a map, use it to locate riverbeds, wells, ponds, or springs. Another good way to find water is to keep an eye out for plants that require water to grow, like cottonwood trees; large concentrations of them probably mean water is nearby. Sucking water out of cactus pulp is difficult, but definitely an option. Also, you can catch any rainfall or dew you can find. Another tried –and- true method is to dig a pit, place a large bowl or container in it, line the hole with foliage, and use rocks to anchor a piece of clear plastic wrap across the top; this produces condensation, which will drip down into the container. Again this is a difficult way of getting water. Following flocks of birds or other animals may often lead you to water which you will not have to dig for. If there are dead animals near such a watering hole, do not drink this water! It is most likely contaminated. Most likely, you will need to use more than one of these methods to get water. If you already have some water, your best bet will be to get in the shade, continue to drink normally, and try and signal for help. Rationing your water is actually counter-productive, and you may dehydrate yourself without realizing it.
Finding water in other areas follows much the same pattern, with the exception that water is more plentiful in non-desert areas. Rivers, streams, and lakes are all great sources of water; just make sure to purify it prior to drinking. If you’re in a rocky area, water may collect in puddles in concave rocks. If you happen to be in land where ranchers let their animals roam, take a look for watering holes or cisterns. Muddy or damp ground may have groundwater underneath; simply dig a hole and watch it fill up, then, filter this water. Although it requires vastly more effort than carrying your own supply with you, it is possible to find enough water in the wilderness to keep yourself alive.