Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today he discusses water filtration systems for use while boondocking.
I will be traveling in a brand-new 24′ Class C Conquest RV with a 48-gallon freshwater tank. I would like a water purification system that has at least a garden hose input attachment for filling. My thought is to rinse out then fill up the fresh water tank from home every time I start out. I plan on being out for 6 months, come home, and camp locally during the summer months.
I’ll be camping in the brush and be dependent on river or lake water to refill the freshwater tank most of the time. So I’ll be using some type of electrical water pump with an output garden hose connection. I already know at least two rivers will have arsenic, lead, and mercury.
Can you recommend a system to use and what all I’ll need to implement it? This system will be installed permanently into the RV and will be used for all seasons so it will have to be a heated area and be drainable after use. —Randall
There are several methods and products to not only filter your water but to purify it as well. The National Park Service has a great website that I have sent boondockers to for several years here.
It is always a good idea to do a little research on the region you are planning to visit, as well, as there may be sites that you can replenish your water source close by with a well system that has been certified pure and posts a Safety Data Sheet (SDS; formerly Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS). Or, it may tell you if there are certain areas that have known water purity issues and have posted alerts.
In our area, we have a recreational lake that oftentimes gets a spike in algal (or algae) bloom. This is typically not deadly, but can cause irritation. However, they can be harmful to pets. You can also encounter harmful algal bloom in remote areas, as well, and it’s not advised to drink this water.
There are two steps needed when getting water from a river or lake ready to drink: filtering and purifying.
Water filtration systems
It is recommended to use a filter that has a pore size of less than or equal to 1 micron. Most of these will filter out sediment such as lime, rust, and calcium, but typically do very little for minerals, arsenic, and bacteria.
A residential filter such as this will only filter at about 3 microns and does mostly sediment. Water softeners will reduce calcium and magnesium, but do not affect bacteria or arsenic.
Boiling your water is the best way to kill bacteria and parasites, but is typically not a practical option if you are looking to use more than just a small amount. For 6 months it might not be something you want to do every day.
There are chemical products such as chemical tablets or liquid drops that use iodine and chlorine dioxide. I would keep them handy just in case of an emergency.
There are several reverse osmosis and UV products on the market. One of the best for boondocking that I have found is from Clearsource, with either the Ultra or the Nomad.
The Ultra is designed to work with your onboard water pump and comes with a three-stage filter that has a 5 micron initial filter for larger sediment, a 0.5 micron second filter to reduce chlorine and volatile organic compounds and contaminants, then the VirusGuard that reduces bacteria.
The Nomad has a similar 3-stage filtration. However, it comes in a handy package with its own water pump to take down to the water source and draw from the river or lake. This might be the system that would work best for your needs, but it is a little higher priced.
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