Finding Water for Survival

Water is something we all need to survive. The human body can survive only about three days without consuming clean, pathogen-free water; less than that if it’s extremely hot outside. Yet water can be one of the most difficult resources to find, especially in certain environments.

You’ve probably heard a survival instructor say that we need a gallon of water a day to survive. But that is just for drinking and cooking. We use water more than that. We need it to keep ourselves clean and to keep our environment clean. And in a long-term survival situation, we need it for our gardens so we can grow our food.

So the amount of water we’ll need will depend on how long we’ll be in survival mode. We could probably go a few days on a gallon of water, but if we go longer than that, we’ll need to increase our water usage for cleaning. To put it simply, we’ll need a lot more water than we think.

Urban Water Sources

It is very unlikely that you’ll have a river flowing through the city. While some cities were originally built along rivers, they’ve grown. And now many people could be miles away from that water source. So you’ll have to depend on a different source.

Start at Home

You probably have some water sources in your home that are available for your use. They exist because of the water you use on a daily basis, even though you might not ever think of it.

  • Toilet Tank - The water in the toilet bowl is not safe for human consumption, but there are a few gallons of water in the tank that is safe for drinking.

  • Hot Water Heater - Depending on the size of your heater, it could hold anywhere from 30 to 60 gallons of water. This water can be drained via the drain valve.

  • Pipes - You’ll be able to find a few gallons of water in your home’s pipes as well. To access you’ll need to find the faucet or valve that’s lowest.

  • Fish Tank - If you have some tropical fish in a tank, you’ll have at least ten gallons of water in that tank. Although taking it won’t be good for the fish, you’re more important.

  • Swimming Pool - A pool is probably one of the best sources of water you can have in your home. Not only does it hold a ton of water, but the fact that you put chlorine in it all the time keeps it purified so you’ll be able to drink it.


These sources (except the swimming pool) will only keep you going for a few days or so. But they are all good starting points.

In Your Neighborhood

You’ll have to move beyond the water you have at home at some point, unless you have a well or you’re harvesting rainwater. To prepare, you should map out the local water sources beforehand, so you’ll know where to look.

  • Municipal Swimming Pool - Like your swimming pool, the water in a municipal swimming pool will have chlorine added daily. So it’ll be clean enough to drink. It’s probably larger than your pool, but others will be taking water from it as well.

  • Water Towers - Water towers usually have a spigot for drawing out water to test. It may be locked away, but if you can find it and get through the locks and/door, you can drain water directly from the tower.

  • Canals - You might have some canals that run through your community and you don’t even realize it. They might be well hidden, but they’ll show up on Google Maps or on topographical maps.

  • Lakes, Ponds, Streams and Rivers - These natural resources are always the best bet, they’re renewable resources. You always need to purify it though.

  • Fountain - Like swimming pools, fountains need chlorine too. So if any local businesses happen to have a fountain, that’s a good source of water.

  • Public Buildings - Just like in your home, public buildings have pipes that hold water. But not many people have access. You’ll need the key that the maintenance people use.

Water in the Wild

If you’re lost in the wild or on a bug out, those water sources aren’t going to do anything for you. In those cases, you’ll have to find water wherever you can. Fortunately, nature provides us with three keys for finding water.

Go Downhill

Water flows downhill. So when you’re looking for water, head downhill. You’re bound to find water eventually. Look for low spots in valleys and canyons as well, water is likely to pool in those areas.

Look for Green

There is always an abundance of plant growth around water sources, since plants need water. If you look for the greenest areas around, you are very likely to find water. Be careful though because this sign isn’t perfect. Sometimes you’ll only find areas with underground water. If you find a green area without surface water, try digging. The water could be just a couple feet below the surface. And when you dig a hole, it could fill up with groundwater. The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find groundwater.

Follow the Animals

Animals also need water. They drink at dawn and at dusk typically. So if you can find animal trails, there’s a good chance that they’ll lead you to water. Make sure you avoid camping right at the water sources. Wild animals need that water too but they’ll avoid it if they smell you there or smell blood. So don’t hunt near there either.


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