7 Water myths that are dangerous

Doug Williams

Water is one of the most important things in life, probably second to the air we breathe and that makes it something that we need every single day.

The difficulty with water is that it needs to be clean, on my shelf here at Outdoor Revival HQ I’ve got a few filters that I use when I’m out and about because I want to be safe.

This article is about those urban myths that float about regarding water, some of which could put you in a dangerous position, and we all want to avoid that.


No matter where you go urban myths abound no matter the subject being discussed. So here are 6 of the most worrying about water.

1. You must ration your water


It’s fine to ration your water if you’re in good health or not in a situation where you’re going to die of dehydration. There’s little point having a spare days water if you’ve already died because you’ve not drunk enough.

You can survive three days if you’re not overexerting yourself and it’s not too hot, this can come down to two days in hot temperatures if you can find shade and don’t exert yourself.

You need to be able to keep yourself from dehydration and heat stroke, so under some circumstances, you’re best quaffing that water and being hydrated and functional.

2. Drink your urine (Pee) to stop dehydration and death


It’s unlikely that the urine itself will kill you, it’s the consequences of drinking it that can be quite serious. Only drink your urine if there’s absolutely no other choice and you’re going to get seriously dehydrated, and it’s life threatening.


It’s can damage your kidneys which are essential for processing fluids and temperature regulation. Your urine is a waste product and it takes water to process it so, if you have to do this make sure it’s a last resort and for short term.

Some have advised that it’s better to urinate on a cloth/bandana and use that for evaporative cooling.

3. Running water is good and safe to drink


Well, running water probably has more chance of being clean than say a pool in the local swamp… It’s still a chance though.

Ultimately most of the things that cause illness for us humans are too small to see and running water is a great way of spreading bad things over a large area, so, unless you know where the water comes from erring on the side of caution.

I have filled my water bottle from a mountain stream and then walked round the course upstream, and there’s a rotting dead sheep in the water, I hadn’t seen it and I’m presumed it was clean water.

We did use it, but it got boiled. Boiling water is a good way to kill anything bad, it needs to come to a rolling boil, there are a few schools of thought on how long it should be boiling, personally I’m happy when it reaches a rolling boil, some say 10 minutes.

4. Pools of water are safe to drink


Err, no.

Treat the same as running water but also add a filtering stage, it can be through fabric such as your t-shirt or a proper canvas filter and your aim is to remove the bits from the water, insect larvae, twigs etc.

It’s an ok place to collect water from to filter and purify but not to drink directly from.


5. Drinking water from Cactus


Yes, there’s often water in Cactus, but it’s hard to get to because Cactus can be tough, as well as armed! There’s also a good chance it will make you sick, the water from Cactus is likely to be highly alkaline and noxious, not the sort of thing you want to be taking in if you’re already struggling to get enough liquids. You’re likely to be sick which will dehydrate you faster if you start throwing up.

There is a Cactus that has more drinkable water but do you know your Cactus well enough o know which one? I don’t.

6. A bit of salt water is fine…


Don’t ever drink salt water.
The water part of it is fine but the salt which is about 4 times more than we can cope with in our bodies is not good for us. If you drink salt water your body will use more water to process it than you’ve taken in, so, doing the math you’re taking water from your body, that will lead to thirst, muscle cramps, coma, organ failure and death.

You can use it to cool yourself down and use a cloth of bandana soaked in it to cool you through evaporation.

If you are stuck at sea then you need to collect rainwater, catch fish and think of other ways to get a water supply.


7. Eating the white stuff


Avoid the yellow version as well

Snow, although it is unlikely to poison you it will not help hydrate you. It takes a huge amount of energy to warm it up and melt it, this is energy that your body needs to keep you warm. It’s like a double whammy, you take energy used for heating, and you put freezing snow inside you which radiates cold, it’s a recipe for hyperthermia as your core temperature goes down.

There are more myths out there about water and we’ll address them at some time in the future, for now though it’s worth using some common sense when it comes to water.

Pack plenty, have a way of filtering and purifying your water and don’t presume that there’s water where you think it should be. Be prepared and make sure you plan for your water needs before setting out.


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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival