Finding Drinking Water at Sea

Water at Sea

This page contains information on how to survive by finding drinking water in the open sea and ocean in an emergency situation, also you will find useful tips on how to desalt seawater and evaporate it.
Finding water is more important than finding food, because without food you can live for weeks, but without water you can't live more than three day. Your survival in the open seas depends upon your ability to use the available survival equipment, and your special skills to apply them to cope with the hazards you face as well as your will to survive. But most importantly your ability to improvise, because every survival situation is different, so think and improvise by taking advantage of what you have available to you.

Finding Water in the Open Sea

The lack of drinkable water could be a major problem on the open seas. Seawater should never be ingested in its natural state. It will cause an individual to become violently ill in a very short period of time. When water is limited and cannot be replaced by chemical or mechanical means, it must be used efficiently. Similar to being in the desert, conserving sweat not water, is the rule. Survivors should keep in the shade as much as possible and dampen clothing with seawater to keep cool. They should not over exert but relax and sleep as much as possible.

Tips when Looking for Water in the Open Seas

  • Don't drink seawater (it will only make you thirstier).
  • Conserve sweat not water (relax and sleep as much as possible).
  • Don't eat unless you know you have water available.
  • Make good use of your fresh water.
  • Collect rain water in containers or anything you can find.
  • Collect dew at night or when it's foggy. Use solar stills as well if you can.
  • Blue ice is safe to melt and drink.
  • Suck the bones of fish and eyes (they contain water).
  • Improvise with the tools you have available to you.

Even though you're surrounded by water in the ocean, finding water that you can drink is hard. So if you have food, don't eat it because digestion requires a lot of water. If you are low in water and rationing yourself, you should avoid eating until you find water. It is possible to survive much longer without food than without water.

The minimum amount of water considered necessary to stay in good shape is 1.3/4 pts (1 litre) per day. It is possible to survive with 2 to 5 oz (55 to 220 centiliters) per day. It's important to note that this amount of water is very small for normal situation, and can weaken the body overtime, but it that's what it takes to stay alive, so be it. That's why when you will be surviving at sea for an unknown duration of time, it is necessary to ration the water to the minimum needed to survive.

You don't need to drink much water on your first day because your body still contains much water. For survival situation only: It is recommended to decrease your water ration progressively. The first 2 to 4 days you should drink 14oz (400cc). After you should reduce to 2 to 8 oz daily. This of course will depend on the climate, whether it's very hot or very cold. Symptoms such as discomfort, absence of saliva, cracking of lips and weakness are normal. If delirium starts, the victim needs more water. (This rationing might not be healthy, but unless you find alternative source of water you might have to follow it to survive).

If you must eat, then you should first eat your carbohydrate food (sugar and starches) and not proteins (unless you have enough water). Proteins requires much more water than carbohydrates. So avoid fish and dried food if short on water.

If it rains, you can collect rainwater in available containers and store it for later use. Storage containers could be cans, plastic bags, or the bladder of a life preserver. Drinking as much rainwater as possible while it is raining is advisable. If the freshwater should become contaminated with small amounts of seawater or salt spray, it will remain safe for drinking. At night and on foggy days, survivors should try to collect dew for drinking water by using a sponge, chamois, handkerchief, etc. Drink all you need when it's still raining, but if you have been on a rationed diet, drink very slowly as to not vomit (a normal reaction after forced drinking following dehydration).

Solar stills will provide a drinkable source of water. Survivors should read the instructions immediately and set them up, using as many stills as available. (Be sure to attach them to the raft.) Desalter kits, if available, should probably be saved for the time when no other means of procuring drinking water is available. Instructions on how to use the desalter kit are on the container.

Only water in its conventional sense should be consumed. The so-called “water substitutes” do little for the survivor, and may do much more harm than not consuming any water at all. There is no substitute for water. Fish juices and other animal fluids are of doubtful value in preventing dehyration. Fish juices contain protein which requires large amounts of water to be digested and the waste products must be excreted in the urine which increases water loss. Survivors should never drink urine, urine is body waste material and only serves to concentrate waste materials in the body and require more water to eliminate the additional waste.

Water at Sea

In Cold Regions: In polar regions, ice is easily collected from icebergs. The surface of the ocean might also freeze and provide ice. If the ice is old enough (a year old. It is usually blue-gray like on glaciers), it will have lost its salt concentration. You can melt it to drink, or just suck it. Be sure to taste it first to make sure it isn’t salty. Also you might be able to collect ice on the surface of various equipment. When very cold, you might also be able to freeze sea water in containers. The salt will freeze last and concentrate in the middle. You can then break the side and separate it from the center to get low saline water.

In Dry Regions: Rain is very scarce in dry places, however nights might bring much condensation. You can collect the drops of condensation with a canvas or plastic tarp (or sail) set as a bowl (to cover the maximum surface area, make sure the water collected gets funneled the proper way to be stored. (don’t forget to rinse the fabrics.

Again, don't drink seawater, the temptation to drink seawater has always been greatest for sailors who have expended their supply of fresh water, and are unable to capture enough rainwater for drinking. For more tips about getting water check our page Getting Water to Survive

More information: We hope this page was helpful and provided you with some survival techniques on how to find drinking water in the open sea. Check out our main page for more survival scenarios here Survival Guide, knowledge is light, and knowledge can save your life. Make sure you do your best to know what to do in a survival situation and then hope for the best.


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