How to Find Water in the Desert If You Are Stuck

You may be wondering, “how would you find water if you get stuck in the desert?”

Of course, we can still go without having food, but water is a necessity as you need it for survival, and hence, no matter where you are, you will need water to save your life.

You may know that a human body can survive only three days without water.

If you ever get stuck in an emergency in a desert, we are here to help you out!

In this article, we will tell you all about how you can find water in the desert. So why should we wait any longer?

Let’s dive right into it!

How To Prevent Yourself From Getting Into An Emergency Situation?

Before we talk about any critical points around our topic, it is crucial for us to discuss the basics of a survival situation and how we can prevent it.

Knowledge is the key to surviving any emergency!

If you know how to survive, then your chances of survival increase rapidly. That is what we are going to try and provide in this article.

Another factor that you need to keep in mind is that you should always be ready to improvise.

You need to ensure that you have enough water in a desert as the deficiency of water can lead to an immediate need for medical attention. 

Before we move ahead, allow us to give you three tips to ensure that you escape from getting into a survival situation in a desert:

Inform Your Loved Ones!

It would help if you always informed someone you know about where you’re headed and all the other necessary details.

It will ensure that someone can come to help you in case of an emergency. 

Always Have A Plan

Taking impulse decisions can lead you to an emergency.

Hence, you should always ensure that you have enough food and water supplies and all the other necessary items that you might require.

Having a plan and staying organized will allow you to skip any such emergencies. 

Where’s All The Water?

You are going to the desert! Do not forget to pack a few extra water bottles with you.

There is no such thing as too much water when it comes to the desert. It is better to have a sufficient water supply instead of a shortage of water in the desert. 

How to Conserve Water in the Desert? 

It is vital to keep a check on your water supply. It can be done to understand your surroundings, such as the air temperature and your body’s water requirements, considering the physical activity.

You need to ensure that you conserve the water inside your body. Therefore, you need to be sure to preserve the sweat of your body. So what can all be done by you?

  • Try to stay away from the sun! 
  • Try to keep a safe distance from the hot and sandy ground. You can do this by placing something between your body and the land. 
  • Cover your body correctly! It will ensure that the evaporation rate slows down. 
  • Please do not drink alcohol or smoke as it increases dehydration. 
  • Do not move a lot. Limit your physical activity as much as you can. 
  • Try to eat less because digestion of food also requires water. 

Following these steps will help you prolong the process of dehydration as it will drop the water requirement of your body.

However, when it comes to thirst, you should not always trust your thirst if an emergency in the desert.

Hence, instead of following your thirst, you should drink water according to the temperature.

  1. If the temperature is below 38 degrees C, you should consume half-liter water at 1-hour intervals. 
  2. If the temperature is above 38 degrees C, then you should consume one-liter water at 1-hour intervals. 

Lastly, if possible, try to purify the water before drinking it.

How to Find Water in the Desert?

If you are in an emergency in the desert, you should look for water using a map.

rain water on rock formation on a desert in the outback
Rainwater on a rock formation on a desert in the outback

But if you don’t have a map to help you through the process, here are a few other methods where you can lead towards:

  1. Keep an eye on desert trails. You might be able to find water nearby by following them. 
  2. The cactus plant can prove to be a good source of water. If you get your hands on a barrel cactus, you can cut it off and then suck the juice from its pulp. Don’t forget to use a machete for the process, as it can be challenging to do otherwise. 
  3. Several plants such as arrow weed, sycamores, hackberry, cattails, and others grow near water. So keep an eye for such plants as wherever you’ll find them, it’ll mean that there’ll be water around somewhere. 
  4. Search for the decaying or dead trees as many trees contain water inside the trunk. If you’re unable to find them, you can look for insects that are going into the hole of the tree as they also enter it in search of water.
  5. Something is always better than nothing. If worse comes to worst, you can use the morning dew which comes on the plants. 
  6. Always keep a container by your side, as unexpected flash floods or rainstorms can always make an appearance. 
  7. You can also dig a narrow hole in the desert ground for a water source. However, digging in the afternoon can be risky as you’ll be exposed to sweat. In an emergency, you can hide in the shade and wait for the temperature to cool down.
  8. If you find green vegetation or damp sand anywhere, then you might find water in that area because dense vegetation cannot survive without water sources. 
  9. Try to discover a dry river or river beds as you can find water just under the surface.
  10. You’ll be able to find water around and under the rock, but before reaching it, you should check for animals as they can be dangerous.
  11. Plants contain water, and they release it in the form of vapors, so you can wrap a plastic bag around them. To collect the water, you need to weigh down the closed end of the plastic bag with a rock.

Stuck in the Desert: What About Dehydration? 

If a healthy person’s body generates heat or absorbs it, then the body’s temperature rises rapidly.

For example, when you are in a desert, a human body can absorb heat from the hot ground.

Physical activity can also increase your body’s temperature as your body gets worked up.

If your body’s temperature increases 6-8 degrees above your body’s average temperature for a long time, then this can be the cause of your death.

Sweating is your body’s way of getting rid of the extra heat. However, sweating can also lead to dehydration as your body loses water in the process. 

Hence, you need to ensure that you drink water at regular intervals so that your body remains cool and you do not sweat much.

Exhausted dehydrated thirsty hiker in the desert lies down and pours water into mouth

Make sure to take a few sips now and then so that you keep your body cool. Do not move a lot and try to stay out so that you do not lose water. 


That’s all we had in store for you today. We hope that this article helped you inculcate the important information in terms of surviving in the desert.

We also hope that using all of our tips can prove to be helpful for you, and that you don’t forget to plan your trip to the desert properly, before you get moving.

Do not forget to take all the necessary actions to save a life during a desert survival, and make sure to make the most out of your trip.

We’ll see you in the next article. Until then, stay safe and keep travelling!!

Article by:

Eric Birch

Eric Birch is a survival specialist trained in the U.S. military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program. When he’s not ferociously learning new survival tactics, he enjoys the great outdoors, and/or cheering on one of his favorite sports teams.

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