Daily Archives: August 15, 2012

Water of Life: No, Not That Kind

It’s Wednesday, zombie fighters! We’ve spent the last couple weeks talking about fitness and weapons, so I thought it would be a good moment to focus on survival. You know, the kind where light switches become rather ugly and superfluous wall decor and your toilet morphs into an ineffective chamber pot.

When zombies happen, civilisation goes boom. And when civilisation goes boom, Whole Foods ceases to be the beacon of delicious cakes and soy milk we all know and love.

But when civilisation goes boom, your tummy won’t much care.

To survive, your body needs to eat. And drink. Both on a regular basis. And since you can go up to eight weeks without eating but only a few days without water, we’re going to start with the most important.

1. Finding water.

2. Making it potable.

3. Storing water.

Today’s ZAP post is the first of the series on the Ability for Indefinite Sustenance: Survival Skills for a Zombie Apocalypse.

I don’t usually have a one of these in my back pocket.

Finding Water

Not many of us have a Loch Ness in our back yards, and it’s possible that even if you do live in Drumnadrochit or any other of the wee villages sprinkled along the Great Glen, zombies might infest your loch.

Assuming you don’t have access to a dark, eerie body of water, you’re going to have to find some. And fast.

With a little forethought, you can start stockpiling water when the news of zombies begins to trickle in. Like that guy in Florida eating the other dude’s face. You’ll still run out. And then you’ll get very thirsty unless you find another source.

Even if you live in an urban area, there are going to be green park-y patches all over your city. Before the zombies happen, scope out these parks, find good routes to get to them, and familiarise yourself with the water sources therein. I live close to Seneca Creek State Park (looky there, now you know where I live!), which has a lake and a couple of small burns (streams) running through it.

You might be caught in unfamiliar territory when the zombies come, however. And in that case, you don’t want to be caught dousing with a stick with the horde on your tail. So here are the best things to look for when you’re searching for water.


Plants are the single most stable indicators of water other than seeing it yourself. Plants like to drink as much as you do, and a lot of them drink a great deal more.

I wonder if trees get drunk…

Certain plants absolutely must have consistent water to survive, and these are the ones you’re going to want to find. Don’t go hunting cacti. I mean it. Unless you live in Arizona or some other desert region, you’re not going to find them in a forest — and harvesting water from water-storing plants is for advanced survivors only. Which means I have no idea how.

If you’re in temperate regions, cottonwoods and sycamores grow near rivers and streams. I remember growing up in Montana, and down by the Bitterroot River at the swimming hole, the cottonwoods would send their white fluff raining to the ground every year. They like water. Sidle up to them and ask to be their new BFFs.

Cottonwood leaves

Cottonwood leaves (Photo credit: anyjazz65)

When they’re not fluffing all over you, cottonwoods have greyish-brown bark with vertical striations running up and down the trunk. The leaves are heart-shaped and grow in smallish clusters like above. These are big trees, and they can be easy to spot when you’re not in the middle of dense forest.

Massive Sycamore

Massive Sycamore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sycamores don’t like to be shown up by the average cottonwood. They can get massive as well. Sycamore leaves resemble maple leaves — symmetrical, large, with several points fanning out from that central line. The bark is mottled and bears puzzle-piece designs. It flakes off easily, so once you’re not thirsty you can make a mosaic.

Regardless of where you live, you can find water by watching the composition of the ground around you. If all you see is topsoil and underbrush, keep looking for places where there are exposed rocks and indentations in the ground as well as sharp drops.

Even if there’s no water running through these places, they indicate stream beds. You can follow these stream beds to their sources — which could be a spring or a river. Look in the bends for mud. Mud can tell you how recently the bed was active, but it can also be a sign of water beneath the surface. If you dig a few inches down in the mud and your hole fills in, you’ve found some water.

In arid regions, plants that grow around water sources are reeds, rushes, and gourds, such as desert squash. These plants die without a consistent water source, so if you dig at their roots, you may find a water hole. In general, if you are in an arid or desert region, trees of any kind will be a good sign water is afoot.

Once you find it, you stick your face in and drink, right?

Erm. Not quite. Unless you want to convene with Montezuma.

Cholent pot

Cholent pot (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Making it Potable

No, that doesn’t mean throw some marijuana in there.

There are any number of things that can make your water gross. Livestock poo wherever, and if you’re downstream, you could be drinking poo. Not to mention all the rotting zombies and bodies in an apocalypse. Yikes.

It’s important to find the most pure water source possible from the start. This means choosing streams found on higher ground (mountain streams if possible) or moving water in general. Stagnant water holds many more microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, algae, and other contaminants. Once you’re satisfied that no ranging cattle have flushed away their cowpies with your stream, you need to make sure there’s nothing else in there that can make you sick.

The best way to do that is to boil it. Stainless steel canteen cups or camping pots are good for this. Before you dump your water in, strain it through a terrycloth towel or a piece of flannel to remove the visible sediment and dirt. Then you will want to boil your water for at least twenty minutes to ensure that you kill all possibilities of disease.

With a few more pieces of equipment, it’s possible to distill your water for further purification. Go here to read more.


Cistern (Photo credit: Badly Drawn Dad)

Storing Water

You probably don’t even have a giant cistern lurking around your home. So how do you keep all that lovely water you just spent hours hunting for and purifying?

If you’re on the move, it’s likely you won’t have many options. You might have a Nalgene or a canteen or two. If you’ve got a permanent camp, that’s when it’s important to store as much as you can.

Water storage should be sturdy, stable, and sealable. You don’t want to have a bird fly by and drop a present into it once you’ve purified it, right?

Most beverage jugs are good for this, but milk jugs can hold proteins and make it easy for bacteria to grow. There are certain kinds of bottles (like Nalgenes) that hold up very well over the years. If you really want to invest in water storage, you can purchase a cistern (they come in a variety of sizes) and keep that on hand to store your water.

I hope you feel better prepared for the zombie apocalypse now! This is, of course, just an introduction to finding and purifying your own water, but it could be useful even without zombies threatening civilisation!


How Stuff Works: How Long Can You Survive Without Food and Water?

SurvivalAndBeyond.net: How to Find Water

ZAP Disclaimer: Emmie Mears is not a personal trainer or nutritionist or weapons expert and makes no claims to be. Emmie is not Bear Grylls. Always consult a professional when survival is an issue. These tips are not intended to be exhaustive advice. No new exercise regimen should be begun without consulting a doctor. ZAP makes no guarantee that you won’t be eaten by zombies, and all participants handle weapons and wild food and undertake all workouts at their own risk. Emmie Mears and EmmieMears.com are not liable for anyone poking themselves with a sword or arrow, or any other possible injuries or illnesses that may occur when training for a zombie apocalypse. Use common sense. Learn what you’re doing.

Most of all, kick some zombie ass.

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