Saturday, August 7, 2010

So Thirsty… Must Have Water

Robinson Cruseo-Sheva Apelbaum
Update from survival school. Today’s topic: H20.  This week we’ve spent some time learning about finding water, purifying it, and even making sea water drinkable.

So you have built your shelter and lit a fire, but you still need water to quench your thirst.   In a survival situation, water problems fall into one of the following 3 situations.

1. You have access to fresh water
2. You only have access to sea water
3. You can’t find any water

1. You Have Access to Fresh Water
Once you have found a source of fresh water, you will need to filter it to make it safe to drink. You need to do that because even if the water is fresh, it may still contain algae, debris, parasites or bacteria.  Fresh water sources can be found in puddles, rivers, lakes, ponds, and swamps.

How to Make a Water Cup The first step in the purification process is to remove the large debris from the surface (leaves, branches, algae) . Next, take any tight weaved material, like a cotton shirt and fold it over until you have at least four layers. The reason for this is because the water that you collect will be filled with algae and other microscopic creatures so a shirt folded over can serve as an excellent filter.  Pour the water over the shirt and then place a canteen or a bottle underneath to collect the water.  To help with the transportation of water, you can also easily create a cup by cutting and folding some flexible material and attaching a wooden stick as a handle.

The water is now filtered, but it is still not safe enough to drink. You will need to boil it.  For how long should it be boiled? There are several misconceptions regarding this. I’ve heard people say 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or even 30 minutes.  Keeping water boiling for a long time is not necessary and can be inefficient, because it wastes fuel and will evaporate most of your water.  The correct time is as long as it takes for the water to reach boiling point (100 C or 212 F).  To be extra  safe, wait another 3 minutes beyond boiling.

2. You Only Have Access to Sea Water
If you don’t have access to fresh water (if you are next to a sea or marsh, for instance), you should remember to never drink salt water because it will make you dehydrated.  The problem with drinking sea water is that  it forces your body to use its fresh water reserves to get rid of the salt (you do this by urinating). You end up using more of the body’s water reserves to urinate than the total amount of actual water that you drank in the sea water. This negative water intake can eventually lead to kidney failure and death. 

But don’t lose hope yet. There are two techniques you can use to distill salt or brackish water (to remove salts and other contaminates from it).  These are:

A. Using sun distiller (slow and doesn’t produce much water)
B. Using fire (faster and produces more water)

A – Using Sun Distiller
To use this technique you will need the following ingredients:

+  smooth material like tarp, plastic wrap, etc.
+  a tube or a long straw
+  a collector (about the size of a tin can)
+  a medium sized stone
leaves or other source of water

To assemble:

1.  Dig a hole about 36” across and 24” deep .

2. Dig a smaller hole in the center of the main hole. Its size will
     depend on size of the collector container that you use.

3. Place one end of the tubing or straw in the collector container
     (use a string to attach it if you have one).

4. Place the collector container in the smaller hole.

5. Extend the unanchored end of the tubing over and beyond the
     edge of the hole.

6. Place the plastic sheet over the hole.  Cover its edges with soil
      to hold it in place.

7. Place a rock on top of the the center of the plastic sheet.

8. Lower the plastic sheet into the hole until it is about 12”  below
     ground level (i.e sloping directly over the collector container).

9. Make sure the plastic cover does not touch the sides of the hole
     (because the condensed water will drain there first).

10. Place more soil on the edges of the plastic to hold it securely
       in place and to seal it in order to prevent the loss of moisture.

11. Plug the tube when not in use to keep the moisture from
      evaporating and to keep insects out.

After several hours of sun heating, you can start drinking water from your distiller by using the tube. Avoid opening the plastic cover because you will release the trapped  moisture.

Installing 5 such contraptions would provide you with enough water for a single day.

Belowground Waterstill-Sheva Apelbaum
Illustrations taken from chapter 6 of the US Army Survival Manual

B - Using Fire-1  
If a container is available, fill it with seawater; build a fire and boil water to produce steam; place a cloth over a container to absorb steam; squeeze water from cloth directly into mouth or a collection container.

B - Using Fire-2
To use this technique you will need the following ingredients.

- two containers, one should be made out of fire proof material
- a 3’ tube or longer (it can be either plastic or metal).

To assemble, fill in metal container with water and attach the tube to its top (making a coil out of tube will improve the efficiency of this design). Next, you should connect the other side of the coil to the second container (receiver).  Make sure that the receiver container has a way to relieve pressure (don’t use duct tape to attach the hose).  Place the first container over the fire, elevating it above the second container. Depending on the size of your fire and the water distiller, you will eventually see water appearing in the receiver container. This water will be drinkable. 

Water Distilling Boiling Bottle-Sheva Apelbaum

3. You can’t find any water
If you find yourself in the an area that Water in Desert-Sheva Apelaumdoes not have a visible source of water, you can still locate it by digging around.  Most  areas (even the driest ones) have some water, you just have to find it.  To improvise a digging tool you can use your handy survival knife, a long pointed stick,  or sharp rock chips.   The following are good potential search areas:

  • At the foot of cliffs or large rocks
  • At the foot of lowest spot in the banks of a dry river
  • Under damp surface sand
  • Next to green vegetation

Collecting Dew 
Morning dew can provide you with plenty of drinking water. To Grass with Due-Sheva Apelbaumcollect the dew, wake up before sunrise and tie some absorbent material to your ankles (i.e. cotton tee-shirt).  Walk in the wet grass and when the cloth around your ankles gets wet,  squeeze and drink the water.

Tracking Animals to find water
Insects crawling into a hollow tree trunk Birds Circeling-Sheva Apelbaummay be an indication that the tree is filled with water. You can get the water out by either using a tube or  by tying a string to your shirt and throwing it in order to soak it.  Animal dropping near rock cracks or crevices my also suggest the presence of water.  Birds will often circle over water holes. They may also fly to water holes before sunrise and sunset. Animal sounds in the evening or early morning can indicate that water is nearby.  Finally, an important rule is that almost all trails will eventually lead to water.  If you locate one, just follow it.

Water from Plants
Contrary to what you see in the movies, you should avoid drinking a lot of coconut milk because the oil found in them is a diarrhetic.  Green bamboo is a good source of water. To get it out, chop of the head of the stalk and bend it (while it’s still planted). After a while, water will start dripping from the stalk.

If you find a banana  tree, cut down the trunk, leaving about a 1 foot stump. Using your knife or a sharp stone chip,  scoop out the center of the stump so it is bowl-shaped. Water from the roots will fill in the bowl. Taste the water before drinking it because the initial fillings may taste bitter.   When not drinking from the stump cover it so it doesn’t dry out.

Water from Banana Tree-Sheva Apelbaum  
Illustration taken from chapter 6 of the U.S Army Survival Manual

You have done a good job, now you have a shelter, you started a fire and you have quenched your thirst.  Next I will discuss communications and signaling.  Drink a lot of water, stay warm, and sleep well.

1 comment:

  1. Oh well Sheva, that's good, if there is no creek, we still have water with our fish dinner in the wilderness! :-)
    Excellent job girl!!!