v50 Steam/Premium information for editors
  • v50 information can now be added to pages in the main namespace. v0.47 information can still be found in the DF2014 namespace. See here for more details on the new versioning policy.
  • Use this page to report any issues related to the migration.
This notice may be cached—the current version can be found here.


From Dwarf Fortress Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is about an older version of DF.

Water is a fluid found all over the world. It flows from mountain springs, forming the world's oceans, lakes, rivers, and brooks. Water falls as rain and snow, and freezes into ice. Water is home to aquatic creatures. Most creatures can swim in deep water, and like all fluids, air-breathing creatures can drown in it. Water comes in two varieties: freshwater, which makes up almost all inland water, and saltwater, which fills the seas; these are home to different aquatic creatures. If dwarves do not drink they will become dehydrated(thirsty) and if they do not quench that thirst then they will eventually die. Injured dwarves will only drink freshwater, though normally dwarves prefer their booze.

In addition, water can be stagnant or murky, both of which are sub-standard drinking sources. This may cause dwarves to have unhappy thoughts if they drink from it, making them "complain about the nasty water". Water must be flowing to avoid being/becoming stagnant or murky. This problem can also be avoided by building wells.

When water comes into contact with creatures and objects, they become wet. Soil and stone becomes damp or muddy, which can be used for farming, and produces tower-caps at a higher rate. Water can "drown" saplings.

Water is displayed with the symbols and ~, sometimes colored different blues, white, brown, or red to show ripples, mud (in the case of a brook), blood and flow. (The game can be configured to show the depth instead). Dark-colored water symbols indicate the water is one Z-level below the camera level. Water has 7 depth levels per tile, with 1 being perhaps ankle-deep, and 7 filling the tile completely. Dwarves and other humanoids can walk through water up to depth 4. At 4 they can choose to walk or swim, any deeper and they must swim to pass through the tile. At a depth of 7/7, a creature which cannot swim will begin to drown.

Every material sinks in water.

The tiles above brooks are treated as floor tiles. They are passable to creatures, and objects do not fall into them.


Main article: Evaporation

It's important to know that water can evaporate, disappearing forever. On any map, any body of water with a depth 1/7, or mostly 2/7 but with at least one 1/7 tile will (eventually) dry up. On hot or very warm maps, murky pools can quickly go dry from the heat, leaving dwarves with no source of drinking water in case of injury. On such maps (or if you suspect it), a cistern should be one of your very early priorities. Underground, pools of water that are 2/7 or deeper will never evaporate.

Water Flows[edit]

Water above a depth of 1 will tend to flow towards any adjacent tiles, and can move diagonally, the depth will spread out evenly so a tile of 7/7 water will become seven 1/7 tiles, or if there are only two it can expand to it will become two 2/7 and a third 3/7 though the 3/7 will move around. Water can be stopped by most solid tiles. These include walls and buildings, plus closed floodgates, doors, hatches. Exceptions are grates, bars and fortifications which are specifically designed to allow liquids through. Waterfalls occur when water has the opportunity to fall through open space. Waterfalls will continue falling straight down until hitting either floor or another body of water.

Water in Dwarf Fortress acts like a fairly thick, viscous fluid. This makes it possible to do otherwise impossible things like pump out a dry hole in the middle of a river.

"Water flow"" also refers to the ability of moving water to power a water wheel.

Water in Fortress Mode[edit]

In addition to drinking, pools and rivers can be used for fishing. To specify a pool of water as a water source, fishing zone, or pond, you need to create activity zones at the level above the water. The "level above the water" is the level at which the surface of the water is at foot-level instead of ceiling level. Water can be bridged, and can also be used to make a moat.

Water can be moved by digging channels or tunnels, using buckets, or by constructing a screw pump. Dwarves will use buckets to fill a pond. Screw pumps (operated by dwarf or machine power) can move water vertically and horizontally. Transferring water down channels/holes to lower levels can be hazardous due to water pressure.

Underground pools and murky pools can be drained by digging into the side of them. Rivers can also be redirected in this manner. It is only possible to dig directly up into a water-filled tile using stairs or a ramp. Fish and other aquatic creatures will stay in the water as it moves, but may end up on the ground if the water becomes too shallow. Drained lakes that are outside are filled by melting ice and snow, but not by rain. Murky pools, once drained, can be refilled by rainwater, allowing for "rain barrel" systems of supplying your fortress with water.

Tiles adjacent to a water-filled tile are labeled "damp" and flash the water symbol when accessing the designations menu. When a miner discovers a damp tile, he cancels the mining designation, the game pauses, and the camera centers on the tile. This happens for every damp tile discovered, and each must be designated again before a miner will dig it out. Digging under a water-filled tile does not actually drain it, even though you receive multiple warnings about damp tiles. If a tile already appears to be damp when it is designated, no warning will be given. Digging up into water (such as a ramp or staircase) will give no warning, and can easily flood, especially if it is how you discover an underground pool or river.

Somebody who falls into water, for example, a kobold thief, will then have a "water covering" on nearly every part of their anatomy. This is listed under v,inventory and is shown in green.

Water wheels can be used to generate mechanical power if the water is in a flowing state.

The water in a tile can be destroyed by closing a floodgate or door on it (via a lever), by lowering a bridge onto it, or by evaporation. Thus water mass is not conserved and it is possible to run out of water on maps without an infinite source(such as an ocean, river or aquifer). It is also possible to get rid of excess water by letting it flow into a river.


Water will instantly turn into ice when the environment is cold enough. In some biomes, water will freeze only during the winter. In other biomes the water will always be frozen in all seasons.

Sourced Water[edit]

Sourced water is a term referring to any water that will never run out (i.e., water features you can see on the region map). These include "river sources" flowing into the map from the edge. It is possible to completely flood your fortress if you tap into these without building controls such as floodgates.

Water depth[edit]

You can find out how deep water is by examining it with the look command, or by editing your init.txt file to display water as coloured numbers.

Water depth ranges from 0-7. The following is a qualitative description of how deep the water is relative to a dwarf.

  1. Not a true value (that is, you will never see it displayed) - there is no water on this tile.
  2. A puddle. This is the maximum depth dwarves will build on.
  3. Knee deep.
  4. Waist deep.
  5. Chest deep. However dwarves prefer to walk instead of swim, and in 4/7 water they will wade regardless of swimming skill. Dwarves never drown in 4/7 water.
    Also, a swimming creature can move through 4/7 water even if they are IMMOBILE_LAND.
  6. Head height. Dwarves are now swimming (or drowning, as the case may be).
  7. Over a dwarf's head.
  8. The tile is full to the brim of water.

Salt Water[edit]

If a site contains saltwater (there will be a warning before embarkation), then all the naturally occurring water in that site will be salt water; including ponds, rivers and aquifers.

You can tell whether a particular area of water is salty or not by creating an activity zone around it. If it shows "Water Source (0)", then it is saltwater, and thus undrinkable. Water may currently be desalinated by passing it through a screw pump, however, if any desalinated water touches natural walls, natural floors, other salt water, or an aquifer, it will immediately return to its salt form, thus meaning that all cisterns or reservoirs of desalinated water must be completely constructed, with no natural boundaries. When in doubt, an activity zone will reveal whether or not the water has been contaminated.

Oddly, a well built over a source of salt water will still provide drinkable water to dwarves.

Contaminated water[edit]

When blood or dead bodies come into contact with water, it can become contaminated, and dwarves will refuse to drink from it. In a river or brook, this can occur if the contact was upstream of the drinking spot. Flowing water will recover from contamination faster than murky or stagnant water.


Most climates experience rain. Rain will slowly fill murky pools in the land. Rain will not collect in dwarf-dug channels.

"Water covering"[edit]

If, in a dwarf's inventory menu, some or all body parts are described as "Water covering" them (in bright green letters), don't panic - all that means is that the dwarf is wet, not (necessarily) underwater. They may have been underwater (they may still be underwater!), or just wading about in deep water, or they may have been out in the rain, or walked under falling water somewhere. Unless exposed to more water, they will dry off soon.