How to find water in the wild

Master this survival essential – here’s the best ways to find water out in the wild…

In the big bad world of survival, you can last about three weeks without food, and only three days without water, so finding sources of fresh, drinkable stuff is pretty essential.


The Holy Grail

Obviously you’re unlikely to find a Tesco Metro laden with Evian out in the bush, so you might find the following water finding tips handy if you don’t fancy turning yourself into beef jerky. Oh yeah, for all the armchair survivalists out there, drinking your own wee won’t cut it either.

Signs of Water

If you’re going to want to drink, you’re going to need to find the stuff first. By becoming experienced at reading landscape and terrain, you can determine places more likely to be a good spot for finding water.

Good places to look for reliable water sources include the bottom of cliffs, narrow canyons and tight river bends. All of these places represent the kind of terrain where water is likely to collect on its path of least resistance on it’s way to the ocean.

As a fair proportion of Mother Nature’s creations also quite like a tipple, there can often be quite a few natural pointers towards water.


A random congregation of green vegetation often represents water. More specifically, the following plants also indicate a proximity to water:

  • Reeds
  • Palms
  • Willow
  • Alder


The majority need to drink regularly, with grazing animals usually needing to drink at dusk and dawn.

Even if you don’t find animals themselves, you can follow their trails. Follow converged animal trails downhill and you should end up at a waterhole.


Watch out for are grain-feeding birds such as pigeons and finches. They will drink at dawn and dusk. If flying low and straight they are likely to be running on empty and heading for water. When full they often fly from tree to tree.


Both bees and wasps are good indicator of water and flies are rarely found beyond 90m of water.


Right, so you’ve found water, time to dive in and gulp away. Or maybe not. Often in extreme conditions, the water you find is not exactly going to be the like the tap stuff you’re used to. You will need to clean it before you drink it.

Normally boiling for five minutes will kill of any micro-organisms and bacteria that lurk. There are chemical methods for cleaning water that can work instead of boiling if a fire isn’t possible, namely chlorine and iodine, which you will have to have with you when going feral.

No Water?

Right, you’ve followed the birds, bees and goats and found nothing, what then? There are a few techniques for obtaining water where there isn’t an obvious source of usable liquid isn’t immediately obvious. Here’s how to collect your own water.

Words: Andy Cremin