Collecting Water from the Earth to Survive

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Hiking through the desert can be a wonderful experience with peaceful views and quiet. However, when hiking through the desert bringing water is essential to survival. Even if you were exceptionally lucky enough to find a desert Oasis, the chances of that water being unsafe for drinking due to arsenic is relatively high. Drinking water laced with arsenic when you’ve run out of all other safe water options would only further reduce the chance of survival in the desert. That’s why it’s important to know how to procure your own water that is safe and to have the tools to do that.

Dehydration is exceptionally dangerous. It can strike quickly and overwhelm the body and mind. It depletes the body of fluids which decreases the volume of blood which constricts the vessels. Nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, dizziness, lethargy and death can follow. This is why it’s so incredibly important to have backup sources of water that can be obtained while on the go if the water you brought runs out. One of these backup sources is creating a solar still.

The solar still was created by two physicians working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After 40 years of extensive testing in multiple deserts by EU S Air Force it has been proven that when properly assembled a solar still can save your life and prevent dehydration. A solar still operates under the greenhouse effect principle. A plastic barrier is placed above ground so that solar energy can heat up the ground below the plastic barrier. Then moisture from the ground below of that plastic barrier rises and condenses on the underside of the plastic barrier. A solar still such as described above can even purify urine to make clean drinkable water.

Items Needed

A basic solar still is made of just a 6-foot by 6-foot sheet of clear plastic, a shovel, a few rocks, and a container to collect water. The container can be a collapsible cup, an empty plastic bottle, a pot, or any other container that is safe to catch water in for drinking purposes. As far as the plastic sheeting it can be a drop cloth that is clear as long as there are no holes.


  1. Dig a hole 3 by 3 foot in size in a sandy wash or depressed area where rainwater might collect.
  2. In the center of this hole dig another smaller hole deep enough for your water container.
  3. Place the plastic sheeting over the hole. Place large rocks at each corner of the sheeting. Cover all the sides with dirt to keep the sheeting in place.
  4. Find a small rock to place in the center of the sheeting. This will keep the plastic center down as a center wait just above the water collection container.


  • Tubing can be placed inside of your water collection container and runs below the plastic sheeting out of your solar still for easy access to clean water. This also prevents having to build deconstruct and rebuild your solar still.
  • To increase water output succulents can be placed around the water collection container inside the solar still.
  • A solar still can yield 1 quart of water per day. Due to this it is advisable to have materials and ability to produce at least four solar sills for adequate hydration.
  • A solar still should never be considered the primary water source when hiking or adventuring in the wilderness. Solar stills are primarily a survival skill to lengthen the time you can live until being found.

"*" indicates required fields

Who would you rather be stranded with on a deserted island?*
This poll gives you free access to our premium politics newsletter. Unsubscribe at any time.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.