Monday, December 4, 2023


Can you really be confident of the purity of your RV water supply?


By Bob Difley

In much of the world obtaining safe drinking water is a daily concern. But we RVers are fortunate to be able to fill our water tanks from taps whose sources we don’t even question. We accept that if it comes out of a faucet, it must be OK – even when the water fill station is within feet of the sanitary dump station.

And sometimes we use the provided hose, having no clue where the end that we poke down into our water fill receptacle has been. When was the last time you even thought of pathogenic microorganisms and intestinal parasites?

However, even in this highly sanitized country, we may be taking too much for granted. Like assuming the public campground, highway rest area, state and national park, and even high-line RV resorts’ water supplies are tested as often as required by health officials. In the United States about 25,000 to 30,000 cases of dysentery are reported every year.

“Lack of sanitation is the world’s biggest cause of infection,” says Admittedly, we are unlikely to contract a waterborne disease – though when RVing we do not always take the same degree of precaution that we do at home.

You may think you are safe if you don’t drink plain, un-enhanced water from your water tank, preferring wine, beer, coffee, sodas or tea for your liquid intake. But if water for any use – ice cubes, washing vegetables, rinsing dishes, brushing teeth – comes in contact with your insides, you might want to consider these extra firewall protections between you and the bugs that can make you sick.

• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food, food preparation equipment, utensils, serving dishes and tableware.

• Wash similarly after dumping your waste tanks.

• Fill your water tank only from a water supply known to be clean drinking (potable) water, such as municipal, campground and tested well water sources.

• Keep the ends of your water-filling hose out of the dirt and off the ground at all times, being especially careful when attaching your hose to a tap.

• Attach the ends of the hose together after emptying it of all remaining water and store coiled in a closed plastic bag or bin.

• Use your own water hose to fill your tank. You don’t know how previous RVers have handled the supplied hose.

• Do not fill your water tank from the water supplied at a dump station for rinsing down, unless you are sure it is a safe (municipal) water supply and you use your own hose.

• Wash your hands after dumping and before handling the water hose to fill your freshwater tank.

• Every six months sanitize your freshwater tank by pouring in one-quarter cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water in a full tank. Let stand overnight. Drain, fill, and rinse at least twice, or until chlorine odor is gone. Better yet, fill with water and bleach when leaving your last campground and let it slosh around in the tank as you drive.

• Filter the water coming out of your kitchen faucet by attaching a water filter like the Waterdrop to the faucet or use a pitcher like the Brita UltraMax with built-in filter for drinking water.

• Water filters will also remove grit that you get from some desert water supplies and bad tastes from some wells and other local water supplies.

• Use the filtered water for washing veggies, brushing teeth, making coffee, tea, cold drinks, and ice cubes.

• If you think you may have taken on tainted water, dump it and sanitize the tank with a bleach and water flush.

These are all simple measures – and good habits – that will ensure that you are protecting yourself and your family from what could be a most uncomfortable experience.

Check out Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.



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charles w morgan (@guest_122091)
2 years ago

I use a zero water pitcher in my RV fridge

Bradley Anderson (@guest_120810)
2 years ago

I find it surprising at the amount of bleach to add to chlorinate the fresh water tank. It is stated here to use 1 quart for every 15 gallons of water and let it sit overnight. I seen on other forums to use 1 cup for every 15 gallons. Personally, I use 1 cup per tankful and let it sit about an hour. I can still smell bleach water in the tap, which is, I believe, what is needed. Then I add about a teaspoon upon fill-up after rinsing which might give a slight chlorine odor. We don’t drink from it anyway as we purchase bottled water for consumption.

Bob Weinfurt (@guest_120796)
2 years ago

Good tips. The only one I personally won’t do is add bleach to the water tank when leaving a camping area. If something were to happen while traveling, you wouldn’t be able to use your water.

JACK COTTON (@guest_120794)
2 years ago

We recently bought a small Berkey system. Expensive, but we are full timers who travel to many places and this makes sure our drinking water is safe.

Impavid (@guest_120791)
2 years ago

Regarding Betty’s comment of 99% contaminant removal, for every 100 gallons you use, you are left with 1 gallon of contaminated water. As Gary does, I use 5 gallon jugs alternating between two jugs. I keep them in the basement of my fifth wheel and for $100.00 was able to run a completely separate water system and pump the water from the jug directly to the kitchen.

Gary Byler (@guest_120772)
2 years ago

Until recently my wife and I lived in our 5th wheel, our 3rd full time RV. We carried 3 five gallon water bottles, that we refilled in trips to grocery stores, for cooking, drinking and oral hygiene use. We would routinely add bleach to our fresh water tank, normally while in transit, for all other uses. Never really felt secure using tap water to drink from a realistically unknown source.

Steve Comstock (@guest_120766)
2 years ago

Curious, Bob that the filters you link in your article have no ability to prevent biological pathogens like you started out writing about. “…pathogenic microorganisms and intestinal parasites”. If one is really concerned about these things, then bottled water would be the best choice for drinking, brushing teeth, etc.

Betty Studzinski (@guest_51405)
4 years ago

Chuck, I carry a Berkey filter in my RV for all drinking and cooking. It’s amazing at removing nearly 99% of all contaminants and gives you pure fresh clear water.

Barbara (@guest_120762)
2 years ago

Berkey is the safest way to in the RV and your home…we love our Berkey…

tom, (@guest_51362)
4 years ago

Another “never drink water from the tank (or the park) RVer. I carry bottled water and use that for drinking and cooking. Tank water is okay for washing and flushing, and that is it

Carson Axtell (@guest_51227)
4 years ago

The Waterdrop and Brita filters you recommend above remove some waterborne chemicals and improve the taste of water but they DO NOT remove any of the biological contaminants the rest of the article was concerned with avoiding…

Bill (@guest_51115)
4 years ago

All good suggestions, however i would add a sediment/iron filter to the incoming water supply line to keep out grit, and to help prevent iron staining on the fixtures. Carbon filters do a good job of removing chemicals, which are usually way below safe levels anyway, but also removes the chlorine residual in most public water supplies. That results in de-chlorinated water in your tank, which makes microbial regrowth in the tank and on-board water system more likely.

Joe Allen (@guest_50979)
4 years ago

Bob, I might add one more tip to RVer’s for safety regarding water and the parks we visit. More than once have I seen an RVer dumping his tank and rinsing his sewer hose under the spigot with hands that are not wearing gloves as well. So, the next guy comes by and first hooks up his hose and then turns on the faucet. Not good!
I carry a bottle of 50/50 water bleach and spray the faucet and nipple before touching. This way, you have hopefully removed all the dangers of the camper before you! Your tips for sanitizing are spot on and we can never be too careful out there!

Charles Kilpatrick (@guest_120741)
2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Allen

i’m with you Joe. First thing we do when arriving at a campsite is mix the bleach solution and spray everything we are likely to some in contact with, including the picnic table and it’s seats.

Clorox writes that the sanitizing solutions we make from bleach and water is only good for about 24 hours. And should be remade daily.. Also, according to Clorox, even though stored properly and unopened, Clorox begins to breaks down at about 6 months to a point of needing replacing about a year after the manufacture date . This info is on their web site, including how to find and read the date of manufacture. ,

Ran (@guest_50970)
4 years ago

We never drink from the tank, regardless. Bottle water guarantee we have a fun safe trip away from the toilet! Yes, we use carbon filters on intake, mostly for showers and dishes. Good to refresh tanks like todays article on Bleach treatment!

James Copeland (@guest_50945)
4 years ago

Bob, how is your recommendation to use a brita ultramax for water filtering any better than the whole house water filter most folks use. This is a quote from Brita ” The Brita Pitcher Filter is not intended to purify water” . I just wanted to point this out as when I read you article I thought it was a recommendation that would remove impurities at the microbial level like Giardia.

Jeff (@guest_50933)
4 years ago

Yes another Great Article and one RVers should read and consider.

We fill our Water Tank (sparingly) before we leave the house! I know our water service here is good and the water is for the most part pretty clean, NOT BROWN or nasty looking. We also use Carbon based filters on our Water Line and have a double Carbon Filter in our Refrigerator Ice Maker. Our Ice maker works great and if we hook up to a Campground Water supply, I always taste the water in the RV, after it has run through the filters, give it a SNIFF Test too! We have been at some Campgrounds where the Water was just nasty and foul coming out of the Tap!

We do carry several cases of Bottled water also, just in case!

Just my 3 cents worth of experience and knowledge!

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