This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
Everyone knows the importance of water in a survival situation. You can only survive without it for three days, but you’ll feel severely dehydrated after just one. This is why water needs to be one of your biggest priorities. You should stock up on two gallons per day per person, but you should also know how to find water.
Why? Because disasters happen when you least expect, and you could be away from home when the next one strikes. Or worse, your home–along with your water supply–could be destroyed. In case either of these things happens, you need to know how to collect water. Here, then, are 10 ways to collect water during a disaster.
1. Natural Water Sources
The first way of finding water is obvious. Simply walk downhill (or toward clusters of bushes and/or trees) until you find a natural source of water in a lake, stream, river, or pond. If you can’t find one, try digging a hole about a foot deep. If the soil is moist enough, the hole should fill with a bit of groundwater. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Unfortunately, there’s also no guarantee you’ll find water this way, which is why you should know about some other methods…
Stretch out a tarp and tie it between four trees. If you can’t find four trees near each other, dig a wide and shallow hole in the ground, then lay the tarp over it and hold it in place with a heavy object over each corner. When the rain falls, it will collect in the middle of the tarp. Pour the water from a tarp to a bucket when it starts to get heavy, then set the tarp back up to collect more rainwater.
Repeat this process until it stops raining or you have plenty of water.
3. Solar Stills
The solar still is a classic survival method for collecting water. You’ll need a bucket, some rocks, green leaves, and a plastic sheet such as a tarp or a shower curtain.
Dig a hole about two feet wide and one foot deep, then set your bucket in the middle of the hole and surround it with the green leaves. Spread the tarp over the bucket and secure it with rocks on all four corners. Set a smaller rock in the middle of the tarp so that it weighs down over the bucket.
Over the course of the day, water will drip down into the bucket, and you should have around 150ml of water by the end of a twelve hour time period. Watch the video below for more details.
4. Transpiration Bags
Another classic water collection method is the transpiration bag. Although this method yields less water than a solar still, it’s also less work. All you need is a clear plastic bag and some cordage. Tie the bag around a branch that has lots of green leaves.
Throughout the day, moisture and water will collect in the bag. You can also set a small rock in the bag so that the water collects in one place. NOTE: Make sure the tree you use is not poisonous. The video below describes the method in more detail.
5. Gathering Dew
In the morning when it’s still moist outside, tie a clean rag around one or both of your feet and walk through an area of green grass where the dew has yet to evaporate. Each rag will become soaked with water which you can then squeeze into a bowl. Repeat this process until the dew evaporates or you have plenty of water.
6. City Parks
Most city parks have fountains, ponds, or streams. Collect as much water as you can but don’t drink it yet. Most park water has chemicals and pesticides in it, meaning it’s not safe to drink yet. To remove chemicals from water, it’s not enough to simply boil it or use a standard water filter. You’ll need a high-quality water purification system.
Check out this article for a few suggestions.
7. Office Buildings
Scavenge office buildings and businesses for water dispensers, vending machines, and refrigerators. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find soda, coffee, tea, chips, pretzels, crackers, and so on.
8. Water Heaters
Water heaters are capable of storing anywhere from thirty to a hundred gallons. Unlike water from city parks, the water in heaters is safe to drink because it has already been treated. The first step you will want to do is plug all the sinks and bathtubs and then run the water until they fill up or until the water quits running. Then you can get into the pipes in the walls and collect the water in there.
It’s going to require a lot of work to break through the walls and access the pipes, but if you’re really thirsty it will be worth the effort. The video below explains how to drain a water heater.
If you find a home that’s been abandoned, check the backyard for a pool. If you can’t find a pool, check garden hoses. You should be able to collect enough residual water from them to last you at least a day. Hoses are everywhere, from houses and apartments to golf courses and hotels.
If the water won’t run through the hoses when you turn it on, simply cut into the hoses to get to the water that way. Have a cup on standby to catch it when it spills out.
Note: Pools usually have harmful chemicals such as chlorine in them, so before you drink the water, be sure to run it through a high-quality filter such as a Big Berkey water filtration system, a Megahome countertop water distiller, or a reverse osmosis water filtration system.
Yes, if worst comes to worst, you can always access the water in a toilet, at least in the tank. Unless your dog is with you, you probably won’t want the water in the bowl of the toilet for obvious reasons. Most toilets hold anywhere from one and a half up to six gallons of water, so that’s too much water to pass up. You should absolutely boil and filter any water you collect from a toilet before you even think of drinking it.
Most of the water in the tank should be safe to drink (at least according to the CDC), unless someone recently pushed contaminated water back into the tank with a plunger. No one’s saying that it isn’t gross to think about, but if you want to stay alive and have no other water, it might be necessary.