Finding Good Water Sources in an Emergency

Knowledge of Good Water Sources is a Must in an Emergency

When you’re in an emergency situation and don’t have access to clean water, it can be difficult to know where to look for drinking water. Without clean drinking water, you could become dehydrated very quickly.

This is why knowing where to find clean water in case of an emergency is so important. If you have a natural disaster or emergency scenario planned for your bug-out bag, knowledge of good sources of water becomes even more critical.

You need to know where the best places are to find drinking water if you get caught out in the open without supplies. It isn’t as simple as staying away from streams or rivers and hoping you don’t end up near one.

There are different ways that you can identify good potential sources of clean drinking water in an area during an emergency situation.

Good Sources of Water Are Usually Clear

When you’re searching for a potential source of water, it is best to look for clear water. This is the first indication that the water you’re looking at is likely clean and drinkable. You can still find clean water that is slightly murky, but it isn’t as likely.

If you’re near a lake, river, or other body of water that you suspect has clean, drinkable water, you can also use your hand to check the visibility of the water. If you can’t see the bottom of the water source, the visibility is too low to safely drink from it.

Look for Shallow, Shaded Areas

If you come across a body of water that you’re considering drinking from, you can check it by using a hand-held drinking water test kit.

Alternatively, you can also take a small sample of the water and drop it onto a piece of white cloth. If it soaks through in less than 30 seconds, the water source is likely clean and safe to drink.

If the water source you come across is in a shaded area, it is likely to be clean and safe for drinking. If you find yourself in a desert or other arid environment where you’re looking for water, you can also use the color of the ground as an indicator of water quality.

Dark brown or black soil is typically a sign that there is water that is very close to the surface.

Rivers with Dark Brown or Black Soil May be Good Options

If you come across a river that has dark brown or black soil around it, it is likely safe to drink from. Dark soil near a river is a sign that it is flowing through agricultural land. Agricultural areas use fertilizers that end up in the water, which is why you want to avoid these areas when searching for water sources. However, these fertilizers do not make the water harmful to drink.

Avoid Areas Where Animals Dwell

If you find yourself in a desert or other arid environment, you should avoid bodies of water that have animal activity around them.

The easiest way to do this is to stay away from places that have lots of insects. Anywhere that there are lots of insects is likely a watering hole for animals.

This is why you should avoid areas where animals like to gather for water. In fact, you can also use animal tracks as a sign that you should stay away from a particular water source. If you see animals walking in a certain direction from a water source, it’s likely because the water is not safe to drink.

Dry-Season Rivers Are Typically Better Options

If you are in an arid environment and you can’t find an obvious water source, you can still look for potential options. If you know the dry season ended recently, you can look for little creeks and streams in dry riverbeds. These are great options for finding water in an arid environment.

For example, the Colorado River is typically a very large river during the wet season. However, during the dry season, it shrinks down to a much smaller riverbed. During the wet season, this area is likely flowing with water. However, during the dry season, it is likely reduced to a tiny trickle.

You May Find Dirty Water That’s Still Drinkable

If you come across a water source that has lots of insect activity, is very shallow, and is in an area where animals are drinking from it, you can be sure that it isn’t safe to drink from.

However, there are some cases where you can find water that is very muddy. During an emergency situation, this water can be safe to drink if you filter it.

You can use a bandana to filter out the larger pieces of debris from the water and make it saferer for drinking. You need to be careful about how long you filter the water for though. If you filter the water for too long, you could end up removing some of the beneficial minerals from the water, which can make you even more dehydrated.


If you know where to look for clean water in an emergency, you will be far less likely to become dehydrated. If you are in an area where there are lots of animals drinking at a water source, if there is a lot of insect activity at the water source, or if the water source is very shallow and muddy, you need to look for an alternative source of water. You can also use your hand to test the visibility of the water, and you can use the color of the ground near a water source as an indicator of water quality.

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About the Author: Brenda Blue