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The Waters of Life

I am Doctor Madison Li. I have people with me in need of shelter. You must allow us access at once.Doctor Li trying to enter the Citadel after evacuating Project Purity.

The Waters of Life is the eighth main quest in Fallout 3.

Quick walkthrough

Main Quest: The Waters of Life
Speak with the scientists at Rivet City.
Clear any Super Mutants in Project Purity.
Replace the fuses and boot up the mainframe.
Drain the intake pipes then head to the control room.
Escort the scientists through Taft Tunnel.
Take care of Garza's heart disease.
Arrive at the Citadel.
Reward: 700 XP
Leads to: Picking Up the Trail

Detailed walkthrough

Go to the Rivet City Science Lab and join the scientists at Project Purity

James will make his way to Rivet City; the Lone Wanderer can choose to follow him there or leave him on his own, either way, he will eventually reach the Rivet City Science Lab and wait for the player character to meet him there.

Upon the player character's arrival, James convinces Dr. Li to reactivate Project Purity. After a short conversation, he asks the player character to meet him and the scientists at the Jefferson Memorial. It is highly advised to stock up and prepare for a battle, as well as free up as much inventory space as possible.


Named characters who relocate to the Jefferson Memorial:

Clear Project Purity of any remaining mutant threat

Dr. Li, James, and the rest of the science team will be waiting for the player character at the entrance to the Gift Shop. James informs the player character that they must clear the Memorial of the remaining super mutant threat before they can proceed. The Memorial Sub-basement consists of short narrow corridors with an occasional room.

If the player character has already cleared out the Jefferson Memorial, James and the team will go straight to the Rotunda, bypassing the preliminary pep-talk.

Routine Maintenance

Once James arrives at the control room, he asks the player character to carry out some maintenance tasks to bring the project back online.

  • Turn off Flood Control Pump Power - The Flood Control Pump is located in the sub-basement level in a room to the left of the bunk bed area. The switch is beside an intercom and is illuminated by a floodlight.
  • Get the fuses from Dad / Replace Damaged Fuses - Return to James to get new fuses. The fuse box is at the end of the basement area: there are signs on the wall ('Fuse Access A1') to direct the player character to the fuse box.
  • Boot up the mainframe / Speak with Dad over intercom - The door to the mainframe is located on the 'upper level' of the basement, before the stairs down to the bunk bedroom. After the fuses are installed, a large green light beside the door will turn on. The player character must enter the door and throw the switch on the mainframe, and then speak to James. He will tell the player to return, then change his mind and tell the player character to clear out a blockage in an intake pipe.

Drain the Intake Pipes

The entrance to the pipes is directly ahead from the entrance to the Gift Shop. Once inside, the player character must run through the pipe to the end and turn the control. On the right is the valve to activate the draining. At this point, as soon as the valve is activated, the player character will witness the arrival of Enclave soldiers in a Vertibird. (If from inside the pipes one successfully attacks one or more of the arriving Enclave soldiers then upon the next section of pipe they may be waiting at the end of the tunnel.) The opposite gate unlocks, and the player character is allowed through to the next area.

  • Note that if one tells any companions to "Wait" in the control room, they will immediately die upon activating the valve.

Return to the Control Room

Now the player character must battle their way back to the Rotunda, killing any power-armored Enclave soldiers in the way.

Col. Autumn confronting James

Upon arriving at the control room, Dr. Li is locked out of the main area, while Janice Kaplinski, James, Colonel Autumn and two Enclave soldiers are locked in. Colonel Autumn confronts James and orders him to forfeit the Memorial and assist the Enclave with making the water purifier operational. James refuses, stating that the Enclave has no authority over such a private project, and asks the Colonel to leave. Autumn eventually kills Janice Kaplinski, prompting James to accede to the Colonel's demands to avoid more violence.

Autumn: By the authority of the President, this facility is now under United States government control. The person in charge is to step forward immediately, and turn over all materials related to this project.

James: That's quite impossible. This is a private project; the Enclave has no authority here. I'm going to have to ask you to leave at once.

Autumn: Am I to assume, sir, that you are in charge?

James: Yes, I'm responsible for this project.

Autumn: Then I repeat, sir, that you are hereby instructed to immediately hand over all materials related to the purifier.

James: I'm sorry, but that's....

Autumn: Furthermore, you are to assist Enclave scientists in assuming control of the administration and operation of this facility at once.

James: Colonel... Is it Colonel? I'm sorry, but the facility is not operational. It never has been. I'm afraid you're wasting your time here.

Autumn: Sir, this is the last time I am going to repeat myself. Stand down at once, and turn over control of this facility.

James: Colonel, I assure you that this facility will not function. We have never been able to successfully replicate test results...

The Colonel interrupts James by shooting Janice Kaplinski.

Autumn: I suggest you comply immediately, sir, in order to prevent any more incidents. Are we clear?

James: Yes, Colonel. I'll do whatever you want; there's no need for more violence.

Autumn: Then you will immediately hand over all materials related to this project, and aid us in making it operational at once.

James: Very well. Give me a few moments to bring the system online.
Col. Autumn injecting himself with a mysterious solution while James collapses in the background

James instead overloads the purifier, flooding the locked chamber with deadly levels of radiation. Col. Autumn quickly injects himself with a mysterious solution and keels over, unconscious. James drags himself over to the emergency bulkhead and tells the player character to run, before slumping to the ground, dead.

Escort Doctor Li to the Citadel

A stunned Dr. Li informs the player character that the only way to escape the Memorial is through a series of underground tunnels that lead to the Brotherhood of Steel stronghold, the Citadel. She will run to a manhole in the floor not far from the rotunda door, and the player character must follow. Once in the Taft Tunnel, she will tell the player character that they must keep moving to avoid detection by the Enclave. Daniel Agincourt can be given a pistol to aid against the Enclave. Doctor Li will follow or wait depending on the player character's orders; however, it is important to note that she will also move forward automatically if one gets too far ahead, stopping at designated points in order to keep up.

The tunnels are populated with Enclave troops and multiple variants of Feral Ghouls. The first area with catwalks houses a table with various Chinese items: including a Chinese Army: Special Ops Training Manual, a Chinese Assault Rifle, a Dirty Chinese Jumpsuit, and a rare Chinese commando hat. Also past the table is another table with a rolling pin like the one found in Tranquility Lane.

Once in the second section of the tunnels (called Taft Tunnel), Garza can be heard saying, "Dr. Li, my heart... I must rest." then Dr. Li will explain that they need to stop: Garza's heart disease has gone critical, and he will not make it to the Citadel alive if first aid is not administered quickly. The player character has a few options at this point:

  • Give up five Stimpaks to alleviate his condition until he can see professional medical care (this awards good Karma).
  • Convince Dr. Li to leave Garza behind.
  • Convince Dr. Li to give Garza three bottles of Buffout instead, to drug him and keep him moving.
  • Convince Garza it is best to stay behind.
  • Kill Garza (results in negative Karma).
    • Note that killing Garza with a gun will result in Dr. Li refusing to move forward, making the quest impossible to complete.

If the player character does not want to leave or kill Garza but does not have the stimpaks nor Buffout, they need to find stimpaks elsewhere and bring them back to Garza. They are in two locations: the first is an abandoned operating theater which is to the left when the corridor forks off not long after Garza has to stop; the second location is at the very end of the corridors, directly behind the Brotherhood of Steel barricade, in a first-aid container.

Alternatively, the player character can simply fight their way through the tunnel, leave it, and go find the supplies somewhere else (buying them from a doctor would be the simplest way). Then, head back to the Citadel, enter the tunnel, and head back to the area where the scientists are. They should still be there, and one should still be able to give Doctor Li the medical supplies and complete the quest as normal.

If Garza is already dead before The Waters of Life is started, this part of the quest will be skipped entirely.

After dealing with the Garza situation, the player character can continue the same routine of checking for danger, telling the scientists to wait, then returning to the them once their path is secure. Eventually, the player character must enter a room with a catwalk above the entrance. This can be a tricky battle since the Enclave troops have high ground, complicated by the fact that non-player characters have a tendency to run inside the room and stand in the center (especially followers like Charon).

Although soldiers on the upper levels are not normally accessible, it is possible to reach their location by using the steps, jumping onto the railing, then running along the wall to reach them. This also allows for looting their power armor (Enclave Hellfire armor with Broken Steel active or Tesla armor). In the housed area to the back of the room is a desk with an eyebot helmet.

Farther down the passage, the opposition will turn into feral ghouls. Eventually, the terrain will become a sewer tunnel with a Brotherhood of Steel checkpoint at the end. The soldier is not too happy to see civilians running through his checkpoint. Once past the sandbags, it is advised to keep running until the rest of the science team is well away from the sandbags, as a horde of feral ghouls will pour from a near door. The Brotherhood of Steel is armed with a Flamer for this exact reason and will pour flame into his attackers while two overhead turrets help out. At the start of this tunnel on a bench is a Nuka-Cola Quantum and a copy of Nikola Tesla and You on a picnic table behind a generator. If the Brotherhood of Steel trooper is killed, one of the scientists will likely then pick up the flamer and attack the feral ghouls.

The Citadel, and a very tired Dr. Li.

Once topside, an exasperated Dr. Li will argue with Paladin Bael for entrance into the Citadel to no avail. She then runs to the intercom and yells at Elder Lyons to open the "goddamn" door at once. The door then immediately opens.

Once inside, Owyn Lyons will confront Dr. Li and the surviving science team. Lyons questions Li for a few minutes on what transpired at the Memorial, and Li breathlessly tells him about James's plan and the Enclave's intervention.

Quest stages

10 Go to the Rivet City Science Lab.
20 Join the scientists at Project Purity.
25 Clear Project Purity of any remaining Mutant threat.
26 Tell Dad it's safe to enter Project Purity.
27 Escort the scientists inside Project Purity.
30 Turn on the Flood Control Pump Power.
40 Get the fuses from Dad.
50 Replace the damaged fuses.
60 Boot up the mainframe.
65 Speak with Dad over the intercom.
70 Drain the intake pipes.
75 Return to the control room.
80 Escort Doctor Li to the evacuation point.
85 Escort Doctor Li through Taft Tunnel to the Citadel.
90 Deal with the Garza's "situation."
100Quest finishedEscort Doctor Li through Taft Tunnel to the Citadel.


  • The sequence with the arriving Enclave soldiers the player character witnesses from inside the pipe takes place outside the memorial. This means one can mine the walkway and blow up several Enclave soldiers.
  • If one wishes to protect the scientists, one can have them wait and fight alone. the player character will not need to worry about friendly fire incidents and eventually they will link up with the player character when safe though it will not work all the time, as there is a force field/shield after you pass one of the doorways. This disallows the player character to go back and disallows companions to move forward.
  • With the Broken Steel DLC installed, there may be Feral Ghoul Reavers in the tunnels, and the attack against the Brotherhood barricade may contain up to four of them, depending on the player character's level. A reaver is capable of dispatching the lone Brotherhood Initiate with a single swipe. The friendly turret will not last long either.
  • When getting directions on the intercom from James, he may tell the player character that they are on the right level when they are in fact at the wrong elevation. Although the basement has stairs and different "levels" or flights as such he does not distinguish between these but refers to the whole basement complex, i.e. from the door labeled Basement in the memorial.
  • Equipping various science team members with armor and weapons (by planting items on them) prior to entering the Jefferson Memorial (e.g. Garza/Anna and Alex/Daniel once inside) will allow them to use the same later against Enclave troops. Equipping James and Janice is useless as they die a scripted death. Non-player characters will not use the armor unless they travel to a different cell.
  • After the Lone Wanderer reboot the mainframe, James instructs them to "head up to the Museum Level. Use the door at the north end of the level one is on now." Actually the door one needs to use is on the south end of the level the player character is on.
  • As soon as the player character talks to James via an intercom after rebooting the mainframe, the only exit to the Capital Wasteland will be blocked from outside and the Jefferson Memorial map marker will disappear from the world map.
  • In the room where you must defend Dr. Li from the Enclave while she uses a terminal (there is a Chinese Army: Special Ops Training Manual in the room with the Enclave), one can jump on various objects in the room where the Enclave spawn and gain access to the platform above. On the left side of the room, there are three cylindrical objects by the platform where Enclave soldiers attack from. One can jump from the railing to a curved pipe, then up onto the platform. By doing this the player character can loot corpses that may have been unreachable otherwise and (by entering an otherwise unreachable door) sneak up on the Enclave that normally ambush the player character in the next area. More importantly, one can bypass the part of the quest where Garza needs medical attention.
  • The catwalks that the Enclave soldiers patrol are accessible through some complicated barrel stacking. In the room in which the Enclave soldiers are directly above the entrance, a barrel may be placed next to the portable lighting on the right side of the room, allowing the player character to jump from the lighting to the steel framework. Two barrels must be stacked next to the framework, so that once on the framework the player can crouch and pick up a barrel, and with some difficulty lay the barrel in place next to the soldier's platform. Once the player character jumps from the barrel to the platform, all of the Enclave catwalks can be reached, enabling the player to loot the soldiers that had been previously fought.
    • At the far end of the catwalks is a ladder leading up, likely the access point the Enclave used to get onto the catwalks. However the ladder cannot be climbed, the player character's interactions with it are to "open" and "close" it, but with both actions doing nothing.
  • Also, you could use the pipes inside the first room, just jumping from one to the other; remember to save for it is a glitch trap if done wrong.
  • Be careful about dealing with ghouls when guiding the group out. If one wings Garza, no matter the damage, he may be put in a permanent fleeing/hostile state. If he is, Doctor Li and the others will not follow the player character unless Garza is. So one may need to kill Garza to finish the quest.
  • Upon completion of this quest, the Enclave will set up several "bases", propaganda posters will appear on several pre-War buildings, billboards, and structures, and the Enclave will generally have a much larger presence in the Capital wasteland.


  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 After James poisons the control room, Autumn will occasionally not inject himself and die, not moving for as long as one watches him.
  • PCPC The path the group takes from Rivet City to the Jefferson Memorial leads them past an outpost where a group of super mutants may spawn. Though normally they will be out of their way, the super mutants may catch sight of them and attack, in which case the scientists and escort except for Dr. Li and James may be killed.
  • PCPC The scientists may not spawn properly as the player character follows them out of Rivet City. This can be fixed by re-entering the previous location and then going back, but may cause the group to be broken up as they travel. Alternatively one can fast travel to Jefferson Memorial and should link up with them again.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 Right after Dr. Li confronts the player character about Garza's condition, regardless of the response given to her, if the player character chooses to go back where Garza is, it is possible to see companions spawned there when they should be waiting for the player character in the Megaton house.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 If there is a dead super mutant in the Jefferson Memorial doorway, the entire team will enter the building except for James, who stands in front of the Project Purity entrance in the wasteland and tells the player character they need to go to Project Purity. This bug stops the quest and game from being able to be completed. Beating him there and moving the body out of the way appears to resolve the issue. Or you could knock James unconscious and drag his body to the door of the rotunda and most likely he will enter and the quest will continue.
  • PCPC Xbox 360Xbox 360 On the way to the memorial, Dad may tell the player character to check for super mutants. Once the area is cleared, he may be stuck in the air unable to be talk. The quest can still be completed and this Dad may still be alive during the Take It Back! quest.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 If the player character hacks the terminal before Dr. Li, or simply does not allow Dr. Li to hack the terminal, one may get a bug just outside the "catwalk room" where the player character fights off the Enclave while Dr. Li opens the door. After the threat is cleared and the door opened, Alex and Daniel continue to wait endlessly on either side of the doorway. Dr. Li and Garza still follow the player character normally. Alex and Daniel remain in the same place even if the player character goes to a different area and returns. Alex and Daniel will return to the Jefferson Memorial after the main quest if Broken Steel is installed.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 If the player character tells Doctor Li to lead the way, she may get stuck at a certain point and not move. This can be fixed by killing Doctor Li and entering the sub-basement while she is dead. Wait 1 game hour then go back to the gift shop and Doctor Li will have entered the secret tunnel. Alternatively, the Citadel glitch can be used to prematurely enter the Citadel, and then reading the Vault-Tec terminal's entry on Vault 87 triggering Picking Up the Trail, bypassing the Waters of Life quest altogether.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 When James and Doctor Li talk in the Rivet City Science Lab, the cinematic mode will not come on and the player character is free to walk around like normal, yet their conversation still goes on.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 When one clears out the areas in "Project Purity", it may happen when everyone enters the Jefferson Memorial they will not move but stay at the door and talk with one another. To fix this one must repeatedly walk into James until they get near the rotunda door then he should walk in by himself.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 If one reaches the rotunda quickly they may be able to get behind the doors before they shut; one will die of radiation poisoning if this happens. However, if the player character attempts to talk to Colonel Autumn, there will be no dialogue from him and he will shoot Janice after exiting the non-existing dialogue. This will cause the cinematic to halt completely, and one will be able to talk to James and the two Enclave soldiers accompanying Autumn, as they will not turn hostile even after shooting Autumn, who will not die regardless. The player character will, however, be stuck in the control room as the bulkhead will not open.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 The four quest companions one guides through Taft Tunnel seem to mess up the game's standard companion handling. Examples: one or more of standard companions spawn in the tunnel; one of the four quest followers turns into Dogmeat; Dogmeat will relocate to Vault 101 after one reaches the Citadel. Any spawned followers may remain in their waiting state in the tunnel, so if one is missing any after this quest, look for them in the second part of the tunnel.
  • PCPC Sometimes, Dr. Li will stay near the entrance to the Taft Tunnel and refuse to progress to the Citadel. This can be remedied by using the console to disable then enable Doctor Li. (Disabling/enabling may not help if all companions but Garza are alive, disallowing the game to progress at all.)
  • PCPC Xbox 360Xbox 360 After turning off the pump and run back upstairs to get the fuses, Dad always comments on what the player character has done up to this point. If The Lone Wanderer blew up Megaton and choose the option "what I do in the world is my business, not yours," he will respond with: "What you do in the world may be your business, but here, with me, you are MY son." He says "son" even if you are his daughter.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 Sometimes if one rushes through the game and get to where they have to get the fuses from James, he will just keep repeating Revelation 21:6 and will not let the player character progress through the main storyline.
  • PCPC Playstation 3Playstation 3 Xbox 360Xbox 360 Sometimes if the player character accidentally harms a follower other than Doctor Li, when arriving at the Citadel the non-player character will become hostile towards the player character causing the Brotherhood of Steel to also become hostile. This can sometimes be fixed by reloading an autosave, activating a Stealth Boy then killing the non-player character.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 After Dr. Li demands the door to the Citadel be opened the player character will have a chance to enter the Citadel before they are supposed to. This sometimes leads to Dr. Li not being "escorted" into the Citadel, and permanent cut-scene immobility should the player character re-enter at a later date to try and complete the main quest. This can sometimes be fixed by heading to Little Lamplight and the next plot sequence.
  • Xbox 360Xbox 360 If the player character uses the Mesmetron on any of the scientists in the rotunda the NPCs start glitching out in various ways. Doctor Li will start running in mid-air outside the control room in the rotunda, hit the wall then warp back and repeat. Also, James may become hostile and start shooting at the player character and/or Doctor Li.