Emergency Water

In an emergency, it is possible to make the desert yield enough water to sustain life for a while. All that is needed is a six-foot-square sheet of polyethylene or Mylar plastic, the stuff of which painters' drop cloths are made. A hole about three feet across and twenty to twenty-four inches deep is dug in the sand. A pail or quart can is placed in the bottom of the hole. Over it the plastic sheet is draped, and a small stone is placed with its lowest point over the collecting cup. Stones around its edge anchor the sheet firmly. The heat of the desert sun will vaporize some moisture from the sand—it will collect on the underside of the plastic and drip into the cup. Crushed cactus or other vegetation can be scattered in the bottom of the hole to provide more moisture for evaporation.

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