9/03/2012

How to Find Water in the Desert






I am a big fan of Les Stroud's Survivorman series that comes on the Discovery Channel.  The show has been on hiatus for reasons I've never seen explained.  Regardless, it is an interesting series.  It's probably the only show where there is one main character (Les Stroud), who does all the filming himself while trying to remain alive in hostile environments.  Les has been in some tough places, such as the Sahara Desert to the Canadian wilderness with a downed small aircraft.  I'm always amazed how he is able to find enough food and water for seven days.  This season, Les must stay in hostile surroundings for ten days!  I had thought the reason for the hiatus of Survivorman was due to how hard the constant harsh conditions are on Les Stroud.  I guess that thinking is out the door with this new season of ten days in the rough in each episode.

The thing that has always amazed me is how Les can get water out of practically any situation.  He has a unique way of getting pure water by heating up seawater, in a steel bucket, and allows for the steam to drain by tubing into a container.  If he is lucky, he can get a pint of water a day in that manner.  But, in most of his situations, he needs far more than a pint of water.  Hopefully, you and I will never be in a situation where we will be desperate for water.  But, just in case, I've come up with some ways to find water even in the hottest desert just by watching Survivorman.

1.  Look for dry river beds.  The same can be said of green vegetation.  Check the soil and see if it is moist.  Dig the soil under the rocks and see if water doesn't seep up to the surface.  If it does, use some kind of filter such as your socks, hat, shirt or anything that water will flow through.  It will taste horrible to you.  It most likely will have bacteria.  But, you are in a desperate situation.  You do what you have to do to survive.
2.  Look for flocks of birds.  If they are circling overhead, chances are water is nearby.  But, don't go chasing the birds.  You'll perspire and your thirst will only get worse. In this regard, listen for sounds of wildlife.  The chirping of birds is a good indicator there is water somewhere near you.
3.  Water in cacti.  Now, this is an age-old method I'm sure most people have heard about at one time or another.  But, if you manage to cut open the cacti (and it is not easy to do), be careful.  If it is a milky substance, that most likely means it is poisonous.  Otherwise, cut the pulp up and suck the water from it.   Do not eat the pulp.  It can make you sick.  Being in the desert is bad enough.  You don't want to add to your misery by being sick.
4.  Look for trails.  Most trails, whether they be animal or human, lead to some form of water.  If you find a water hole with animals nearby, you need to rethink things quickly.  There could be animal feces in the water, maybe even an animal carcass.  If, by chance, you have a metal bucket, try to start a fire and heat the water to the boiling point.  Sans that, you have to make a decision.  Is it worth taking the risk of getting dysentery or diarrhea? This will cause you to dehydrate. That can be deadly.  Once again, try to filter with anything you have available. 
5.  Look for hills or mountainous areas.  In a lot of desert regions, this rule won't be applicable.  But, in some desert areas, you will find water draining down from the top of a mountain or hill.  Pay particular attention to green areas of the mountain.  That is a sure-fire sign of water. 

Again, I hope no one is ever caught up in such a perilous situation of being stranded in the desert.  But, you never know what curve balls life will throw your way.  I hope something in this post can help whoever reads it if they ever face a situation where they are stranded without water.  Food is important, of course.  But, the body needs water far more than food.  Water is your first priority. 

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