Water Sources For Survival

Water sources for survival

Water will eventually or quickly become one of your most urgent needs during a survival situation.

Believe it or not, you cannot survive much beyond a few days without any water whatsoever, especially in a hot environment where you are losing water rapidly through perspiration. Even in a cold environment without exertion, you may need a minimum of 2 quarts (about 1/2-gallon) of water each day to maintain some bodily efficiency.

More than 3/4 of your body is composed of fluids. Your body loses fluid as a result of heat, cold, stress, and exertion. To function effectively, you must replace the fluid your body loses.

A general rule-of-thumb is 1 gallon of water per day at minimum for survival needs. Obviously this may vary dramatically depending on factors, but close enough to give you an idea of what to expect.



I thought we would brainstorm and list a variety of places / ways to get emergency water.

Add your own ideas below…


The Obvious

Case of water at the grocery store! (I couldn’t resist)
Lakes, Ponds, Streams ( do you know where they are? )

You do have a water filter, right?
Which Water Filters Do You Have?


Rain Tarp or Rain Barrel

Catch rain in tarps or other water holding material or containers.

#Gallons of Rainwater from a Tarp



– in valleys and low areas
– at the foot of concave banks of dry river beds
– at the foot of cliffs or rock outcrops
– at the first depression behind the first sand dune of dry desert lakes
– wherever you find damp surface sand
– wherever you find green vegetation.

Dig holes deep enough to allow water to seep in.


Holes and Fissures In Rocks

Periodic rainfall may collect in pools, seep into fissures, or collect in holes in rocks. Insert flexible tubing and siphon water.



Many trails eventually lead to water. You should follow in the direction in which the trails converge. Signs of camps, animal droppings, and trampled terrain may mark trails.


Watch The Birds

Flocks of birds may circle over water holes. Some birds fly to water holes at dawn and sunset. Their flight at these times are generally fast and close to the ground. Bird tracks or chirping sounds in the evening or early morning sometimes indicate that water is nearby.


Swimming Pools

While there may be some chemical treatment in swimming pools, chances are it’s just chlorine and PH balance. Have you ever gulped swimming pool water and died from it? (sarcasm). Worth mentioning as a fairly obvious source.

Drinking Swimming Pool Water in an Emergency


Solar Still

A solar still will provide you with 100% pure water, and will not require purification or boiling prior to drinking. The technique will work just about anywhere, provided that there is enough sunlight to assist the process.

How To Make a Solar Still


Snow and Ice

Melt and purify. Caution is advised if you intend to eat snow without melting first. This can reduce body temperature and may lead to more dehydration or hypothermia. Note that snow and ice are no purer than the water they came from.


Sea Ice

Sea ice that’s gray in color or opaque has lots of salt in it. So don’t drink it without desalting it. Sea ice that is crystalline with a bluish cast has little salt in it.


While At Sea

Use desalter kit. Do not drink seawater without desalting.


In The House

There are several ways to extract water from your home.
Extract A Drinking Water Supply From Your House During Disaster

More: Methods To Transport Emergency Water From Source To Home

Share your ideas – leave a comment…


  1. – If you have a fairly local SHTF, and your house has no water while your neighbor does, you can (with permission) connect a water hose from your nearest faucet to his nearest faucet. that will allow you to fill water heaters, tubs, flush toilets, wash dishes, etc.
    It’s an easy temporary fix we sometimes don’t think about. You may need a double female end adapter or hose (like a washing machine hose) to make that connection. I’ve done this before for a neighbor when her submersible pump on her well went out on Friday and the pump guy could’t get to her until Monday.

    – Papa S.

  2. Mornin” Ken.
    Since we were just considering getting home – stock tanks. Garden hoses, sprinkler systems, irrigation pipes, chicken waterers all might be good for a swallow or two.

  3. – We also did something similar when my baby sister built her house. She had a windmill/cistern for horses and garden, but the house had City water. We just made sure that she had a faucet close enough to the cistern that we could easily connect to the cistern after turning off the City water at the curb. That’s a little bit of peace of mind for her..

    – Papa

  4. We have a well, and we have about 150 gallons of storage water in the event of power loss or pump failure, plus the 50 gallon water heater.
    Our property has a creek, and a spring and we have a Berkey filter. I really don’t look forward to packing water to the house ,so I am looking at devising a way to move water to the house and to water the garden. Perhaps a solar pump/cistern type of system.
    Water is so critical to survival and must be at the head of your self reliance list. If you are going to grow your own food or have animals , we are talking lots of water. How will you get your water without electricity ?

    1. Bluesman 12 volt surflow diaphragm pump plus about (off the top of my head) 200 watts of solar to move that water where you need it. Repair kits for the shurflow is cheap buy two or more.

      You can even with a little research build a modern pressurized household system using the same technology. That is how the RV’s do it. Building a gravity feed pressurized system needs a TALL Tower OR a supply the same elevation change UP Hill form your use point.

      IF you want to be a USEFUL Ally for others with shallow water sources you can build a MOBILE 12 volt surflow and solar panel set up on a Hand Truck and wheel it around on sunny days refilling your neighbors bulk water storage. Just research the proper gauge of wire for the expected distance from the FULL SUN Panels to the sureflow pump OR use longer hoses at a reduced rate of flow to transfer water.

      One is NONE two is One eh? You’d have a back up when your main surflow fails too. Win Win.

      Buy quality as post SHTF you will not be able to buy a replacement.

      1. NH Michael,
        Thanks for your input. My house is 20′ higher than my water sources . I have been looking at the shurflow pumps in combo with a solar panel and a 500 gallon cistern 8′ off the ground . I wouldn’t have time to be a mobile water boy for my neighbors but some would be welcome on a selective basis . I would like to put in a solar pump on my present well when the $$$$ is there to do it .

        1. Bluesman if the power is off and SHTF; Loyalty takes time and effort to establish.

          I think making time to be a useful ally may get you more assistance when you need it.

          A worthwhile investment of fiat dollars for barter later in my opinion. That and it’s spare parts for your own system when needed. Amazon will not be delivering when SHTF.

        2. Mrs. USMCBG,
          I looked at ram pumps but I don’t have enough head pressure to make it efficient , plus it would be very visible in the year round stream.

        3. NH Michael,
          Yes , loyalty and trust takes a long while to build, very frustrating at times . There are some neighbors that we have been building relationships with. We do have some barter items set aside if needed .

        4. Bluesman what is more valuable than safe drinking water?

          A portable water pump could be pretty valued. Basic security needs to be addressed.

        5. Please also consider an “Aquatec” solar pump. You’ll have to decide the pump for your well. Feet of head?, In other words, how far from the surface to the water level. Also consider the pump needs to be submerged so it will not run dry. You will also need 1/2″ pipe. The weight of the standing water within the pipe has a dramatic effect on the pump. You can’t use your typical 1 1/4″ or 1″ pipe. These solar pumps won’t handle it unless you go really big. I chose 1/2″ PEC pipe. It is flexible and reasonably priced. Also consider a check valve half way to the top of the well. It reduces the weight of the standing water in the pipe.

          You can probably get by using the same wire as your existing AC pump but check to be sure. It is a close thing depending on length of wire. Most of these pumps are low volume pumps and can be set up for pumping into a cistern or other water tank and then you can use a second booster pump to pressurize the water into your house. Something as simple as a bilge pump from a small boat will work. Think it through and have the parts and pieces available.

          I have decided to simply store my solar pump and parts until needed. Faraday cage!!!

          NH Micheal seems to have it right for his situation. Each of us will have to use whatever is needed for their specific well. A hand pump might be all that is needed for shallow wells or something far more for deep wells. What you have on hand will be all you have.

        6. Plainsmedic,
          In regards to “head”, you need to figure depth to water plus a bit for a submerged well ( as you said), plus at least 25% more for friction of the pipe and fittings to size the pump to get the water to the top of the well. If you have and extensive pipe system you want the water to flow through you might have to up this a bit. (in case Head is in pounds per square inch (psi) figure 0.433 psi per foot of head, 2.3′ of head per psi) . Always want to size pumps with more head than you actually need to outwit Ol’ Murphy. Just my thoughts.

        7. Bluesman, would a water ram work in your case? They are a very cool ancient invention.

        8. Minorjim
          Good points all. The deep well solar dc pumps I have researched are striving to get the water to the surface. The friction loss at the low volumes (1-2 gallons per minute) with very little pressure at the surface renders friction loss a minor issue. The greater the pressure the more friction loss. You can get around 29 gpm thru a 1″ pipe with enough pressure but the friction loss is truly a killer in that scenerio.
          If O’l Murphy comes a callin.
          A “well bucket” made of pipe slightly smaller than the well casing, with a foot valve on the bottom would work. I would hate to think about mechanically lifting that much weight, even with pulleys and leverage. It would get old in a hurry!
          I love the idea of ram pumps but they are fairly limited in what they will do. Free pumping, Yea!
          I really appreciate everyone’s input and ideas.

    2. Bluesman,
      Lot of good comments here already, but I will throw this out for the heck of it. You say your creek is some 20′ below your house. How far up the creek do you have to travel until the water surface is at the same elevation as your house and garden??? What I am driving at is this: Can you very stealthily run a 1″ black plastic pipe from your house up the creek to a point say maybe 10’higher than the house? Kind of bury it in the creek bed and disguise the water intake? You could establish a very good continuous water flow with this type of set up. Very simple, no moving parts, just need to keep the intake clean and the pipe somewhat hidden from the neighbors. Just a thought.

      1. minerjim has been done and sadly stuff tends to clog it up UNLESS you install a highly visible cleanable intake for that water line. Twigs and grasses are bot your friend.

        That and just HOW far down IS that blockage?

        1. NHM,
          LOL, pipes and hoses at some point are gonna get plugged or hang up on something! That’s why having a good screened intake filter is important. Also if you go to 1-1/2″ or 2″ black poly pipe, the friction factor goes way down. I see a lot of lines this size out in the boonies here. Ranchers run them really long distances from small springs in canyons to get water to their stock.

        2. Minerjim that is the reason I brought up the HIGHLY Visible cleanable screened inlet on your “Stealthy” water pipe.

          Keeps the pipe useable a long time even for years BUT defeats that “Stealth” idea you mentioned.

          Maybe I misunderstood your stealthy installation comments. Also I do not know if Bluesman has any freezing in his area? Here in NH that is a 4 month long issue with streams along with more than a few drying up mid summer.

          I have helped my Uncle run a 2 inch black poly in Eastern WA for the same reasons. Works well but we had water rights and did not need to worry about Stealth.

      2. Minerjim,
        I would have to go upstream about 300′ for a gravity feed to the garden and probably close to 500′ to gravity feed the house . We get branches and other debris coming down stream in the springtime and it would are pretty hard to submerge it for stealth .

        1. If you are going across neighbors land, you could offer to let them tap in to water their gardens or lawn. No need to mention SHTF
          You can always say your well isn’t that strong and you want to use it for your garden.

  5. Let’s say the Water stops running from your Faucet.

    Ohhhhh K.
    1. All of the pipes in your house are still filled and will stay that way IF you shut off the valve at the Meter. (You do have a Meter Key don’t you?) Have someone install a “Drain” in your water system, both hot and cold side. Most homes have somewhere around 10 gallons of water in the piping.
    2. Toilet has at least 1.6 gallons in the Tank, and about a gallon in the bowl. (you do keep your toilet clean don’t you?)
    3. As Ken mentioned the Water Heater, 40 gallons is the normal size now-a-days. (You do know how to drain the Tank correct? Hint; just opening the valve at the bottom wont work)
    4. The P-Traps under the Sinks hold around a pint each, have 4 sinks in your house? That’s 1/2 gallon of water.

    Ok, let’s move outside;
    1. What type trees you have? Will they ‘Bleed’ water if you cut the bark? Succulent Plants? (you do know what is safe to eat/drink, right?)
    2. Do you have a Underground Sprinkler system? Could literally be dozens of gallons of water in the pipes.
    3. 90% of larger buildings have Fire Sprinkler Systems in them, with hundreds of gallons of NASTY water in them, you WILL need to clean the water, but it’s there.
    4. Fire Hydrants. (You have a Hand Pump?)
    5. Is it cold at night causing Dew? (Have a sheet of Plastic that can catch that Dew?)
    6. If it rains in your area you have it made in the shade, unlike here, I get 7 inches a YEAR of Rain.

    So lets move on to some Hard to get water,
    1. As Ken has mentioned digging a small sump, HARD work and you will lose a LOT of body water digging that hole, but it may MAY be worth it.
    2. Hauling water is going to be a Bother (Did you notice I use a non-offensive “B” word? HAHAHA), It’s heavy and hard to get 200 gallons in a tote pack. Hauling more than a few hundred yards is going to take a LOT of time also, PLUS Security measures.
    3. A well without electrical is going to require a Hand-Pump, FYI a 150 foot rise on a pump is going to take a HELP OF A LOT of work. Let’s say you have a 1.5” dia pipe (typical size well pipe), that’s pulling water 150 feet up, with each “Pull” your lifting 11.45 pounds of water up. Now let’s say you lift it 3 feet, you’re going to get 0.23 gallons of water each time…… As I said, a LOT of work.
    4. Lake, Stream, Creak, Orange River; Yep all good ideas, BUT again how much water how far, Up-Hill?

    My suggestion
    Store as much water as you can afford NOW, water is cheap, containers are not-so-much, save used Glass and fill em.
    Have a spare pump for that well and a Generator in a Faraday Cage.
    Also have a 2-3 HP Gas Pump (EMP Protected) and a LOT of Garden Hose so you can pump from that Lake Up Hill (do you know why you can’t pump from the top for more than 30 feet?)
    Buy Bottled Water, yes it’s in Plastic, BHP’s may kill you in 20 years, dying from no water takes about 4 days.

    Anyways, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it……

    1. Wonderful comments. We are supposed to get 11″ a year but so far we haven’t even received an inch this year. There are no rivers, lakes or streams nearby. Our well is 300 feet deep and may be in some jeopardy because the lack of rain. I have a lot of water saved in ocean spray juice bottles. I know BHP but I will take 20 years! I recycle it when we are on vacation and neighbors water my indoor plants with the bottles. I refill them when i get home. We have several black tanks collection water which are almost empty and lots of 55 gallon drums with treated water. Ken thanks for all the tips on where to find water around your house.

      1. Old Lady
        If you are in that dire of straights for water, if you decided assistance will be needed please do not hesitate to let me know.

        1. old lady
          Finding water, is my field of expertise. Let Ken know you are in need and will have him share a way to reach out to me for assistance.
          Rest your mind at ease, I do this for nothing. I am passing on my gift to repay the gift shared with me when we were in the same situation you are in right now.
          Check with Ken when he returns, a message will be waiting for you via him.

    2. NRP,
      Good point on irrigation lines,
      Dis some calculating a while back for something i was doing on the farm and the water lines down in our farm hold about 500 gallons + a hair, easy to drain out if need be as i have a spigot and irrigation valve at the end of the line

    3. Lots of good ideas and a couple maybe not so good.
      If you recover water from sink traps, you will get sewer gas in your house, and that water is polluted anyway. Toilet bowl water is not suitable for consumption either, but would be fine for flushing the toilet!

  6. Water has always been my biggest concern, weather for the farm or for our home. Hence the reservoir in that picture a bit ago, i found out early on that if i didnt maintain the water it would gunk up my drip lines in the fields, yes i can run it through un filtered, but not for long as the algae grows like crazy and plugs all the emitters in the T-tape i use for irrigating, so its easier to maintain the water like a swimming pool and then i dont have issues with my irrigation system. This also has the benefit of the water being the closest to potable i can get it, so for use in the home its acceptible. Our area is fickle with regards to rainfall, last few years it rained a lot, so far the last month or so we havent had anything measureable, this is potentially a huge problem should the county line stop supplying water. I can say with certainty we will be altering our useage considerably should that happen.

  7. Timberplot
    spring water Wow a sweet set up. The work done “years ago” will pay off for you.

  8. Most all commercial bldg’s have an outside hose bib.

    You do have a 4 way valve wrench, right?

  9. Years back, someone had suggested keeping a few of those plastic ‘kiddie pools’ as temporary water storage when it rained down hard. A 5′-3″ diameter x 1′ deep pool would hold approximately 162 gallons of water. Not bad at all – these can be kept stacked under a bed when not in use. You would have to cover them up and treat the water.

  10. I try everyday to remind myself how precious water is and how thankful I should be to be able to turn on the tap. I take an imaginary moment and pretend no water comes out and what life would it be like without that convivence. Thankful for our well!

  11. Luckily, up in Canada we probably have the most fresh water in the world (granted, most of it is collected in the great lakes). But nonetheless, water isn’t too hard to find. Carry your water filter of choice, and for the most part, you’ll be okay.

  12. We recently had our 220 volt submersible pump replaced. Found out that our water table is at 18 feet and our well is 36 feet deep. The pump is dropped down 32 feet. I am now confident that I could replace it myself if need be. Considering how long the last one lasted that’s probably not going to be a concern in my remaining years. I do have a pitcher pump and enough pipe that I can drop it down the casing if need be in a long term grid down situation. Question for the group, are the leathers on pitcher pumps universal? I understand they dry out if not being used. How do y0u keep them from drying out in storage?

    On the de-salter kits Ken mentioned for saltwater.I don’t think they are being made anymore. The military had a kit that was included in the bailout survival kits that would cause saltwater to clump the salt but still left it brackish. There was a company making a device called a SeaPack that used forward osmosis to suck water out of salt water into a a glucose solution, It removed 97% of the salt but left you with a very sugary and somewhat salty drink. I don’t think they are still in business but might be mistaken. It didn’t make lot of water and was rather slow to do it.

    The military has switched to reverse osmosis water makers. The bailout kits carry a PUR Survivor 06 and the ship life boats and rafts have PUR Survivor 35s. The 06s need to be serviced yearly at the factory. The 35’s are more user friendly but still need to be carefully maintained. We had a 06 with our liferaft when we sailed and fortunately never needed it. PUR is now owned by Katadyn. You can find used units on eBay but they will need to be serviced. The 06 is small enough to be part of a bug out bag if you are going to be traveling along a coast. The 35 would be better if you were bugging out by boat.

    Solar stills for ocean use are still being made but don’t work very well when cloudy and and cool. They are fairly expensive and don’t make a lot of water per day.

    Survival Blog recently had an article on a portable distillation unit the was home built. It was fairly simple to make.

    1. me
      The old leathers on pitcher pumps will remain viable if stored in water. Keep just the pump in a 5 gallon bucket and screw it on the pipe when needed. The newer (cheaper) synthetic leathers are fine in the air and will last indefinitely in storage. They won’t last nearly as long while in use, though. The 18 ft. lift you describe could be done with a pitcher pump but, I would recommend an old style long handled pump for longer stroke and leverage. Nice to have that option.

      I made a solar distiller for making distilled water for batteries. It works great in full sunshine so long as you’re not in a hurry. I tried it with nasty pond water just to see how it went. Made pristine water. Don’t know what I expected, but I couldn’t resist playing with it. I assume it would work the same for sea water but I’m no where near an ocean.

      The wife accuses me of being 12 years old with some of my projects. I think she’s right, but I gotta have some fun!!

  13. Did a walk about this last week at 0530 and in no time my pants and boots were soaking wet. All I would need is a Shame Wow and keep ringing it out to have a gallon of water fast.

  14. Friends around here certain Trees let you know where water is easy to dig for. In NH Beech and Willow are the best. Water near the surface. Also early spring after the snow melts in NH walk around with a few painted stakes and a mallet. Pound them in where ever you see surface water and even better water seeping up/bubbling. Look again around July/August to see if they are still wet. If so think about developing a spring or installing a sand point driven well and hand pump.

    A Dowser would be useful if you find a good one.

    Developing a spring is not that hard and a great feeling to be able to open that valve and have water available. Look up You Tube for details.

    For those who find a developable spring on your property a Spring House is a lot of work but now you have fresh water 365 days a year, a decent water reserve AND an excellent replacement for a Refrigerator!! Well at least in my area. I wonder how cold ground water in TX would be but still a lot cooler than above ground eh?

    There is a reason old pre-electric farmhouses were placed where they are. A nearby water source.

    1. NH Michael –
      102F today, no rain for at least three weeks and that was 1/2″. Ground water from our 80′ well (48′ to water table) is 42 degrees here in West Texas. Just so you know.

      – Papa S.

      1. Thank you Papa Smurf! Here in NH when I do dishes by hand in cold water it is a bone chilling activity.

        However I am pretty sure you would prefer to keep your food stocks at 42 degrees Vs. that 102 degrees. A copper coil running through your well insulated home built house cooler box before going to your facet could work? That way the power used to pump water could help cool your food stuffs?

        102 degrees, Whew I am remembering the Sand Box right now.

        Do you think you could combine that 42 degrees on a Peilter Electric Cooler unit with good insulation? It still would not go to freezing but pretty close with a copper water coil on the “Hot” side of that unit. I IS a High Tech Redneck and Proud of it!

        What do you think Papa my Brother from another Mother :-)

        1. – NH Michael –
          My Dad was an engineer and thought this would be a good project for me one summer. We actually built a small dorm-sized unit like you mentioned. We were both a bit disappointed when a simple evaporative unit gave better temp control for less effort.

          Build a frame roughly the size of a dorm size fridge. Mine was 2’x2’ by 4’ tall. Leave it open on one side I used chicken wire because I happened to have some around. I covered it with some evaporative cooler pads, the ones that claim to be shredded aspen, also scavenged from a discarded swamp cooler air conditioner.

          Place a metal pan on top of the frame, cover the whole thing with canvas, tie it down on the sides. Fix the front so you can pull it aside. Put a couple of bricks in the pan, hang it from a stout tree branch, and fill the pan with water. Keep it full and the temp inside actually stayed around 60° F in 90° F weather. It was a whole lot less fuss and bother than the Peltier unit, which took constant monitoring to keep the battery charged. You could see across the yard if the evaporative unit was drying out.

          It was marginally more of a problem than just using a cooler box with ice, so we really didn’t do anything further with it. It did work, though.

          Papa S.

        2. Papa Smurf in dryer locations like yours swamp coolers work fairly well but as you said a 30 degree improvement (about the same as a Peltier unit I notice). Here in humid NH not effective.

          But for food refrigeration your reported temp of 110 – 30 = 80 not exactly good for a fridge. My thought as I’ve helped a friend in Yakima WA years ago do it was to have a well insulated box, one or two (as needed) Peltier units WATER COOLED on the hot side as to get the advantage of that 42 degree ground water you reported.

          Direct wired solar would not work well so your correct about the solar panels to controller to batteries to Peltier units as to give you somewhere for chilled items like meds or maybe Beer :-).

          For a insulin dependent could be very useful. To help keep food edible longer also useful when we are not able to shop at Krogers and must be careful with what foods we grow or kill.

  15. Walked into my child’s new house in Las Vegas this week. First comment: “Show me your emergency water .” Nothing. Comment from me: “Get your “sh*t together, you have two small children.” Will ship emergency 7 gallon containers and two 55 gallon drum containers to their house later this week. “Happy House Warming.”

    1. Correction: FOUR 7 gallon containers and two 55 gallon drum containers……

  16. I know a creek system I can take all the way from work to home and a small boat would make it quicker. speaking on both water supply and bug out route.

  17. Depending on source of the data, we average between 100 and 115 inches a year. One of the wettest spots in the lower 48. Ensuring adequate drainage to support healthy gardening and dry feet for farm critters has been the big issue this year. About done with that and moving onto addressing bulk storage needs JIC of a grid-down event.
    Downspout capture will probably be easiest. Just need to figure out how to keep it as clean as possible going into the tanks.
    Also, shopping for a spare well pump to go into F-cage.

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