Most people don’t drink the tap water from their RV, Camper or Motorhome tank due to concerns about water quality. What are the main tap water concerns for RVs? Why should you avoid drinking bottled water while on the road or camping? Where can you fill up your RV water tank? What is the best water filter for your RV, camper or motorhome?
Life on the road, in nature, campings and motorhome parks should be enjoyable.
In this article we will attempt to answer all the questions and more and make life easier and healthier for you. When referring to RVs we include camper vans, caravans, travel trailers and motorhomes.
Where Does The Water In An RV Come From?
Many RVs today offer two options when it comes to water supply from the taps, shower and hoses: City water or straight from your water tank. Which one you use will depend on your situation. Here is a brief summary of each:
If parked with access to a water source then it’s recommended that you connect a hose to your screw-on connection. By using a potable fresh water source, your water will come straight from the source into your RV without any contamination from the water tank.
When on the road somewhere that doesn’t have water hookups, you will have to rely on your RV water tank. Of course, water is heavy, so make sure you don’t carry more water than you need between stops at places with fresh water access. A full fresh water tank could add several hundred miles or kilos to your RV. This means that traveling hundreds of miles with a full fresh water tank would be harder on your engine and brakes, and use considerably more fuel
Is the water from RV tanks safe to drink?
The answer to this is not straightforward.
If the water you fill up the RV water tank with and the tank and system are properly cleaned and treated, then tap water in the RV is safe to drink. This does not necessarily mean that the water tastes great though. Chlorine, hard water and other water substances may cause the water to taste or smell bad even if it’s safe to drink.
However, if there is a risk that the water source is not entirely potable or the tank and system has not been maintained properly then it’s better to not drink the water.
If it’s a RV that you are renting then you should be especially cautious. As you can probably imagine, rental RVs are often not treated right. Those renting an RV are often untrained on the correct RV procedures, and those who own the rental RV don’t always properly clean the water supply before renting them out again. For this reason, we recommend renters to use a RV water filter (see more information below). That way, you know that the water you will be consuming is fresh and safe. Your health is too important to leave up to someone else!
Where should you fill up your RV water tank?
Here are 5 great places as a starting point.
One of the best places to find potable water is at the local campground as they normally include it with the access fee.
Travel centers are another excellent place to find potable water.
Rest stops are another place you may find potable water.
City, County, and State Parks
Many of the parks offer free water access.
Put enough water in the tank for the start of your journey or if you live in an RV then this is your normal source.
Make sure that you download and register for one of the RV apps as they will usually provide great information about water access wherever you go.Some of the top RV apps for iPhone and Android include Togo RV, Trover, iExit, AllTrails, RoadTrippers, GasBuddy
If you are driving around the country the local water may be different from what you are used to and the local content may take some time to adjust to. Some people with sensitive stomachs may feel the difference for a week or so. A good RV water filter could be your saviour (see below).
How often do you need to replace the water?
Two weeks is the simple answer to how long to keep fresh water in an RV tank IF you aren’t using the water and refilling during that time. When water sits unused in a tank, it can become unsafe and therefore undrinkable.
What are the typical signs of bad / non potable tap water?
Egg smell, discoloring, foggy water, slog that falls to the bottom after the water sits stil for a while in a glass. In terms of water poisoning symptoms of gastrointestinal illness from contaminated water can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. Those symptoms can take 24 to 48 hours to develop, so you might not get sick for a day or two after drinking bad water.
How do you clean your RV tank?
1. Drain the water tank (make sure it’s at least 1/2 full before when you do this).
2. To sanitize the water system use a quarter cup of household bleach for every fifteen gallons (60 kg) of water your fresh water tank holds.
3. Mix the bleach, with water, into a one-gallon container and pour it into the fresh water holding tank.
4. Fill the fresh water tank almost completely full of potable water.
5. Turn the water pump on, open all hot and cold faucets and run the water until you smell the bleach at each faucet.
6. Close the faucets. If it’s possible drive the RV or pull the trailer so the water can move around to assist in cleaning the entire tank.
7. Let it sit for at least 12 hours.
8. Drain the entire system again and re-fill the fresh water tank with potable water.
9. Open all of the faucets and run the water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process again to eliminate all signs of bleach from the water system. 10. Once this is done it is safe to use your water system.
If you follow these simple steps you can rest assured that the fresh water system in your RV truly is fresh.
Should you use a water filter for your RV?
For most RVs the answer is probably yes. Even if the tap water is potable and the RV water tank is properly cleaned and maintained there are risks and issues.
Most tap water is chlorinated which means that it may taste of chlorine. If the water is hard or contains metals such as iron then this may cause the water to taste poorly. When adding this up to storage in a tank for a period of time it can further cause distaste of the water.
A high quality water filter will generally solve all these problems and make it taste great.
Tap water Contaminants
The US and Europe generally have high water quality standards. Unfortunately there are still some risks though including chlorine byproducts, heavy metals, microplastics, local pipe corrosion, poorly regulated / tested substances and more. Especially if you are traveling around and don’t know the quality of the water you are filling your tank with.
Again, a high quality water filter will protect you from these kind of contaminants/issues and keep you and your family safe in the long term.
Water tank contaminants / issues
Finally there are the issues specifically related to RV water tanks. If your tank has not been properly cleaned there are risks of bacteria build up inside the tanks or around the pipes that could result in issues.
A good water filter will once again reduce contaminants from the water tank.
In summary it’s probably a good idea to use a water filter for your RV but the water filter also needs to be properly maintained.
What is the best water filter for RVs?
Historically most people have used under the sink or external pipe filters. These are relatively big and bulky and it can be tricky to change the cartridges. What if there was a better solution?
Thanks to new innovations in nanomaterials, improved carbon blocks, heavy metal and limescale inhibitors there is a new generation of small high quality faucet filters. TAPP Water has spent the past 6 years developing TAPP 2 to deliver clean tasty tap water in almost any setting.
Make sure you replace the cartridges on time and flush the filter for 30 seconds if you haven’t used for a day.
Bottled water for RVs
Bottled water is a bad idea in so many ways. It’s bulky to carry and store, expensive to buy (compared to tap water), has no health benefits vs tap water and really bad for the environment/planet. Furthermore there is more and more research indicating that plastic containers are causing hormone imbalances impacting reproduction and possibly even increasing miscarriages. Avoid bringing bottled water on your RV if you can.
Conclusion on best RV water filter
- It’s ok to drink the water from a well maintained RV water tank if the water source is good
- Plan where to fill up your tank to avoid carrying too much load and to ensure you get high quality water.
- Use a high quality RV water filter for tasty clean tap water whenever you need it during your time on the road
- Avoid bottled water if you can as there are no real benefits
- The bet drinking water for your RV is filtered tap water