If I am in a survival situation, is there any reason I shouldn't drink the available water? I am aware of Giardia and cholera. Are these worthy concerns, or are there good enough cures available that they can be outruled?

I know that giardiasis and many other diseases take a week or two to develop by which time I will have either died in the wild, or have been rescued. Are there quick-acting ones that will debilitate me faster than dehydration?

To drink, or not to drink?


2 Answers 2


Dehydration will very quickly reduce your ability to undertake the activities required to survive and so finding and conserving water should be a very high priority in any survival situation.

Clearly there are potential dangers associated with drinking contaminated water but these need to be weighed against the dangers of dehydration. As with most survival decisions this is based on a balance of risks to the best of your knowledge.

If at all possible you should find the safest possible source of water and your basic outdoor kit should include several methods for treating drinking water but if it comes down to a choice between drinking iffy water and dying of thirst then the answer is obvious.

The only exception to this is when you suspect that the only water available would do you more harm than good. Salt water or anything which is obviously grossly contaminated may just speed up dehydration, many water borne diseases cause diarrhea and vomiting which will just dehydrate you faster.

Ultimately this comes down to your preparation, both in terms of the equipment you have with you and your knowledge of the environment you are in and planning for finding water in an emergency should be part of your preparation for any expedition.

Similarly if you are unsure about the water you have available it is sensible to hold off drinking it until you do actually need to.

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    Note that waterborne diseases usually take a while to show up. If it's a choice of dying of dehydration in three days, or developing giardiasis two weeks from now, which would you choose?
    – Mark
    Mar 11, 2016 at 1:55
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    Related How much sea water can I safely drink? Mar 11, 2016 at 9:43
  • @Chris, I have seen a Aircraft Investigation video the link you mentioned. It's actually quite interesting. It explains it well. I'll get back with the link. Mar 11, 2016 at 15:20

Dehydration will kill you before Giardia or cholera does. So, I'd first take a measure of where I am, do I absolutely need to drink the water is question, or is there any other better (safer, need not be testier) alternative to eat/drink.

If I am in a desert-like situation, and I've found this water after a long long time, and I am sure its not potable, I'd gauge how much miles I can go before I collapse. If I know that I can get out of this place, I'll leave the thought of drinking it as is, might want to get it filled in a bottle or whatever I have, so that if at all I can boil it, I can use it. Till then I'll walk, take off my shirt, drink the sweat out of it, until I sweat. The moment I stop sweating, I'll drink the water. This all, if I can only manage to stop myself from drinking it at first place.

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