Water is life’s blood, especially when you are on the Edge of Survival. It can be a matter of life or death, and that’s no different when a survival situation hits in the big city.
While trying to find water in the wilderness can have its difficulties and challenges, an urban-survival scenario offers its own unique set of issues … and solutions. The Law of 3s about not being able to survive more than 3 days without water still applies. What you do to prepare for an urban-survival situation, plus the know-how contained in these great tips, will help you with your water management.
I always advise folks to “jug-up” water and keep enough on hand and ready for an emergency. That translates into 1 gallon per (active) person per day. We’ve all seen water shutoffs or alerts to boil water before use, which makes water consumption much more difficult. For those preparing for emergency weather situations, I recommend filling up as many containers as you have, and don’t forget to clean out the tub and fill it up, too. You will need fresh drinking water, so if you prepare for the situation, you can make life much easier for yourself.
Survival Water Hiding in Plain Sight
Always having stored water or ways to purify water on hand is helpful, just like you would in the wilderness. You should stock water purification tablets, camp filters, and other methods. These all help — but if these run out or you don’t have them, where else can you look? Right in your home! You can get water from the toilet tank, which is the section behind the bowl, just make sure there are no chemical sanitizers in it. Never get water from the bowl, as it always harbors bacteria, no matter how much you clean it. It might be good for Fido, but not humans.
Another source is the hot water heater tank, which can hold 50 gallons or more of fresh drinking water. It is often overlooked. But, be careful and ensure it has cooled down before extracting it. I found that having a Leatherman multitool handy for this task helps. You have several spots to gain access to the water inside that will require different tools. Of course, there is always the brute force method with a good burly knife like a Bowie. Just pierce the tank and start filling the containers. When using this method, always make an opening at the top of the tank first, to relieve any built-up pressure and to create an air hole. When you make a hole towards the bottom, it helps with easier flow of water out of the tank.
Potential Survival Water Sources
There may be other sources you’ve heard about, as well, and some work, while others won’t. Definitely avoid car radiators because they can contain poisonous antifreeze. For those of you who have swimming pools, there are arguments for and against using pool water. Most pools have chemicals to keep them clean and uncontaminated, but there is also the presence of algae, insects, and bird waste. Use caution here, you may need several methods of preparation before consumption, such as a combination of filtering, boiling, and distilling to remove enough of the chemicals and contaminants. Watch out for ponds in urban areas; they tend to be treated with more chemicals than pools to ward off insects. They also can get water run-off loaded with pesticides, fertilizers, and weed killers, as well as local pollution. Knowing where local groundwaters like streams and lakes are located can be useful, but take precautions before drinking — always purify the water.
“Don’t rely on access to tap water or city officials to quench your thirst …”
Make Your Own
Don’t discount other methods, such as knowing how to distill water, it can be very useful in an urban survival situation. You simply fill a container with water, place a bowl or a jar in the center, turn the pot lid upside down, and gently warm the water. The water condenses on the pot lid and drips into the bowl or jar. It takes a bit of time, but provides fresh drinking water. It’s a great technique for saltwater or any questionable water sources.
A solar condensation still is an urban variation of the ground solar still. It’s a good alternative if you don’t have space and is simple to set up (see picture). Of course, you’ll need good sun exposure for it, but it works over time. Fill a plastic jug halfway with water, attach a tube to the spout, forming an airtight seal and keeping it above the water level. Put the tube with a single coil facing downward into another shorter catch container. You can set up several of these easily, in no time.
Always Be Checking
Fresh, clean drinking water is critical to any survival situation and things can go south really fast, once dehydration hits. Always remember the wilderness water-gathering techniques as well — they also work in an urban environment — rain and dew collection, tree tapping, and using transpiration bags. You should always keep your eyes open for fresh water options in an urban-survival scenario, as the thirst is real, even in the city. Don’t rely on access to tap water or city officials to quench your thirst, take your water-survival needs into your own hands, when you are on the Edge of Survival!
Be sure to check out our other Edge of Survival columns and videos from EJ where you’ll learn how to take care of yourself in dire situations!
And don’t forget to visit EJ on his website, Facebook, and Instagram! for more information about his gear and what he’s been up to, including his reality TV shows. He’s got a new one coming up this summer, and one in February! Way to go, EJ!