Directly associated with food is water. These two are essential to life. Many men died because they didn’t know how nor where to look for water in apparently dry and arid regions.

But one has to know how to find it, and fast, if one is to survive. People can go up to 60 days without solid food. You will be tormented by hunger, but you can’t survive without water.

Many different forms of life are certain indicators of water in your vicinity. Bees must have water. Pigeons and all grain eaters must have water, but the flesh eaters such as the crow, hawk and eagle can go without water for a long time. By knowing something of the nature of insects, birds, animals and reptiles, you can often find their hidden stores of precious water.



Since most common diseases in a survival situation are waterborne, polluted drinking water must be rigorously avoided.

Never ever take the slightest unnecessary risk with questionable water. Anyone can generally get along a while longer without a drink. One drop of contaminated water can so sicken that if nothing worse occurs, people will become too weak to travel.


When in a foreign country, it’s safer not to drink tap water. Hotels and motels with purified water generally note this in a prominent place. If you don’t see this, buy and drink bottled water. The safest principle in any event is to assume all water to be impure until proved otherwise, positively and recently!


How can you tell if water is pure? Short of a laboratory, we can’t. Even where a rill bubbles through sheer mountains, an animal’s putrefying carcass may be lying a few yards upstream.

The folklore that any water a dog will drink is pure enough for his master is false. We have often seen dogs drink from toilets. The same notion for a horse is also false. Smell or lack of it is no guarantee. Sulfurous water stinks horribly, yet it’s safe to drink boiled or when not polluted.

The fact that natives may assert a water source is pure could indicate they have built up a degree of immunity. To their systems, the water is not tainted (polluted). Even the loneliest wild stream can be infected with Tularemia (commonly called rabbit fever) by wild animals such as muskrats and beavers. Tularemia can also be carried by meadow mice, ground hogs (woodchucks), ground squirrels, tree squirrels, beavers, coyotes, opossums, sheep, and various game birds.

Yet taking chances with drinking water in a well-settled community is, in one sense, a lot less dangerous than trying out water in a wilderness away from medical help.


Water can be rid of germs by boiling. The exact time required to accomplish this depends on altitude, the nature of impurity and several other factors. A safe general rule is at least 10 minutes, longer is by no means a waste except for fuel and it causes the water itself to evaporate.

If there is reasonable doubt water is contaminated, don't take chances even if in hurry. A great deal more inconvenience, discomfort and delay can result from using untreated water.

Getting sick takes days, even weeks, before feeling better. Sometimes it results in death. This applies to water actually consumed and with equal gravity, to any water entering the human body.

For example, water in which a toothbrush is dipped, food and utensils are washed, and water used in cooking (except when kept at high enough temperatures for a sufficient time to insure purity) could all be sources for disease.

NOTE: Boiled water tastes flat. Air and taste can be restored by pouring the cooled water back and forth between two buckets or by shaking it in a partially filled jar or canteen. If in hurry, add a pinch of salt if available.


Both can be made safe to drink without equipment. If time permits, such water can be filtered through a sieve of charcoal. This will both clarify and to a large extent, purify the water. How much filtering is enough is in question so it is always safer to boil water before drinking for at least 10 minutes. Once boiled, swirl the water for a minute or so to give back its oxygen and taste.



If water is muddy, floating clay particles can be settled out by adding a pinch of alum. This, however, requires at least 12 hours waiting and lots of wood!

Polluted or dirty water can be filtered by straining through closely woven garments such as a felt hat or a pair of thick drill trousers. This will remove sediments only, not purify.


Step 1 Let it rest during 12 hours.

Step 2 Let it circulate inside a bamboo stick or other tube measuring 1 yard, filled with sand and the end packed with grass.

Step 3 Then pour water through a cloth filled with sand which filters the mud.

Step 4 Boil that water afterward for a minimum of 10 minutes.


Water can be cleared by filtration although this process will neither affect any dissolved minerals nor ensure purity.

Water is polluted by animal and mineral matter rather than by discoloring vegetable substances such as grass roots and dead leaves.

The first two can not be removed with any sureness by ordinary filtering. This filter is to clear water by straining it through solid material.

A “wild” filter can be made without too much trouble particularly in sandy areas by scooping a hole a few feet from the source of supply and letting the water seep into it.


Polluted water can be sterilized by adding hot stones to the water in the filter. The water will soon boil becoming sterile and safe drink.

In areas where there is the likelihood of water being unsanitary (near cities or villages), it is always safer to boil before drinking or add a pinch of chloride of lime.

Water which is very muddy, dirty or stagnant can be clarified through a good filter made from a pair of drill trousers with one leg turned inside out and put inside the other leg.

The cuff is tied and the upper part held open by 3 stakes driven well into the ground. Fill with the dirty water and then drop in the hot stones.

The water will filter through and MUST be caught by a container and poured pack until the dirt has been filtered. Boil the water at least 10 minutes. Remember, just moistening your lips with polluted water can make you sick for days; it can even kill you.



Once you have found a water source, you have two old drinking rules to choose from, depending on how healthy you are, how cautious you are and where you are.

The first is, when doubt about water, purify it.

The second is, a lively bubbling stream cleans itself in 30 feet of flowing over rocks and sands. Or as one old codger I know put it succinctly, referring to the same quality of stream bed, "If the cow's around the bend, the water's fit to drink."

Which rule you follow is up to you. We tend to use the second when in mountainous, wooded country. Our stomachs might not be cast iron, but they are pretty resistant to Montezuma's Revenge and La Turista. Yet as pollution increases, we lean more and more to the first rule.

Boiling takes a lot of fuel and a lot of time to cool, but in dangerous regions it is better to drink a lot of tea rather than wait for the water to cool off. For Halazone, use one tablet per pint of water, or two, if in serious doubt. You must let it stand 1/2 hour or more to be safe to drink and it tastes funny like a water from a swimming pool.

Aerating the water by pouring it back and forth between two containers several times will eliminate most of the chlorine taste. This chemical is quite pungent; if you hold your breath while drinking it, you will hardly taste a thing.



One can buy the chemicals at most sporting goods and drug stores. Since their purifying action depends upon the release of chlorine gas, the tablets should be fresh and the container kept tightly closed, its contents dry. 


Two tabs of Iodine will ordinarily make a quart of water safe for human consumption in 1/2 hour.

If the water is muddy or its integrity seems particularly questionable, it is good insurance to double at least the amount of Halazone and standing time to be sure.

Care must be taken with chemical purifiers to disinfect all points of contact with the container, so that the sterilized water will not be easily reinfected.

If a jar or canteen is being used together with Iodine, replace the cover loosely and wait 30 minutes so the tablets can dissolve. Then shake the contents thoroughly, allowing some of the water to spill out over the top and lips of the holder. Tighten the cover and leave it that way for the time required before using any of the water.


Chlorine in some form is regarded as the most dependable disinfectant for drinking water. When introduced in proper quantities, it destroys any existing organisms. For as long as enough remains in the water, it prevents recurring contamination. It is better to err moderately on the side of over-dosage than not enough.


1) Dissolve one heaping tablespoon of chloride of lime in 8 quarts of water.

2) Add one part of this solution to 100 parts of the water to be disinfected.

3) Wait at least 30 minutes before using. The stock solution must be kept tightly corked in a cool, dark place and even then, it should be frequently renewed.

Tincture of iodine can be used as an emergency purifier. A drop of this fresh antiseptic, mixed thoroughly with one quart of water in the same manner as the old Halazone pills, will generally make the water fit to drink in 30 minutes.

Both the amount and time may be doubled if this precaution seems warranted.


Chlorine-releasing compound can not be relied upon in semi-tropical and tropical areas.

Water in those regions must be sterilized either by boiling or by iodine water purification tablets containing the active ingredient Tetraglycine Hydroperiodine, These measures have been adopted as standard by the armed services of the USA.

These tablets have been proved effective against all the common water-borne bacteria. Added to water each tablet frees 8 milligrams of iodine which act as a water purification factor.

One tablet will purify one quart of water. These tablets too must be kept dry. The bottle must be recapped tightly after opening.

Step 1 Add one tablet to a quart of water in container with cap.

Step 2 Wait 3 minutes.

Step 3 Shake water thoroughly, allowing a little water to leak out and disinfect the screw threads before tightening the cap.

Step 4 Wait 10 minutes before drinking or adding beverage powders and if water is very cold, wait 20 minutes.

Step 5 If water contains decaying vegetation or is murky and discolored, use 2 tablets for every one quart.

Step 6 Make certain that the iodine disinfects any part of the container which will come in contact with your lips.



Step 1 JAVEL: Add 5 drops of Javel per 4.5 litres of water never pass that dosage. Its drawback is that water tastes acidic.

Step 2 "Permanganate de Potasse": Drop a piece of it in the water in a way that the water is hardly tainted and wait 1 hour before drinking.

Step 3 In South America, people purify water ponds with copper sulphate 1 million parts to one part of water.



A few water holes as in the southwestern deserts of North America contain dissolved poison such as arsenic. One can recognize these easily, partly because of bones of unwary animals scattered about, but mainly because green vegetation will be conspicuously absent. Avoid any water hole without green plants.


While fighting the Boers, Baden Powel came across this problem, and resolved it this way, having learned that the water had been poisoned.

He simply dug a hole at 9 feet from the river bank and let the water seep through thus eliminating the poison. However the hole must be dug deeper than the river bed.


If the area traveled has hard water to which we are not accustomed, severe digestive upsets may result if, while getting used to it, we absorb more than small amounts at any one time. Boiling may be of some help, but that is all one can do, until one gets used to it.


If you are camping by a swamp or pond with an unpleasant odor, you will want to sweeten and purify the water in a single operation.

Just drop several bits of charred hardwood from the campfire into the boiling pot. 10 or 15 minutes simmering will do the job.

Then you can skim away most of the foreign matter and strain the water through a clean cloth or if time permits, merely allow it to settle.


Diseases from water make one of the greatest threat to survival, if not the greatest, immediately following injuries, cold and man! Among them we find: Dysentery, Cholera, Typhoid, Douves.


This sickness causes general diarrhea, painful and of long duration with bloody stools and weakness. If you think you suffer it, eat frequently and drink, if possible, coconut milk and boiled water. As for coconut milk being a laxative, drink only a small amount. Boiled rice is strongly recommended as food during this illness.


Even with vaccine, you are vulnerable to these diseases if proper care isn’t taken of water drinking habits.


They abound in stagnant and polluted water especially in the Tropics. When you swallow them, they infiltrate the blood causing severe sickness and often death. These parasite worms penetrate the body even through the skin. Don’t walk or bathe in contaminated waters. Nowhere does the addition of liquor to ice or water rid either of germs. (Germs keep well in ice; they don't die).


The small leeches abound most particularly in water streams of Africa. When swallowed, they cling to throat and nose passages. They suck the blood and cause wounds. These parasites move and each time they do, they cause new open wounds which leads the way to infection.

Clean your nose as quickly as possible by sniffing very salted water or remove the leeches with improvised tweezers or with the heat from a cigarette. Another old jungle trick is to rub salt on them which will make them leave.

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