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Old 07-15-2020, 11:40 AM   #1
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Default Drinking or potable water "Strategy"?

Fairly new to RV'ing. A few trips a year for the past few years. Nearly all of them in urban areas. I would pack a case of bottled water for drinking but I would also use a large water sports bottle in the driver's cupholder.

It turns out that my thirst is usually completely taken care of by the sports bottle because I'd take it into places like fast-food restaurants and cafeteria areas of large big box stores and fill from their drink machines. Sometimes those would also serve soft drinks but I'd only fill with water.

Other sources would be libraries, and other community buildings, that have drinking fountains, etc.

Because of my "foraging" around for drinking water, I'd come back from a trip and most of the water bottles would be unopened. I'd use them more for cooking than drinking.

Note, I consider "freshwater" from my tanks to be different from drinking water. I load up my with 15 gallons of fresh tap water (from my garden hose) before I leave home.

I wash vegetables and fruit with it, brush my teeth with it, shower with it.

But I don't actually drink it, though I could. Our home's water is good. I don't drink from it because I don't want to get into the habit of counting on the water in my tank to be potable. On longer trips, I have filled the tanks with hose water from campgrounds where the water is deemed potable, friends who let me have access to their garden hose and parks where the city has claimed it was excellent. But I can't be sure and getting sick won't be fun.

Anyhow, I'm starting to consider boondocking and so there'd be no access to those sources of drinking water I had mentioned.

And frankly, I don't really like the tasted of bottled water (I'm talking about the approx 500ml (1/2 quart?) one-use size; the bigger bottles/jubs seem to be better).

So I'm wondering what your "strategy" for drinking water is.

Just drink the from freshwater tank? (Maybe you boil it first?)
Bottled water?
Buy a big jug and fill up from those filtered water stations from the supermarket?
Rivers and streams? Lakes? (again, boiling first?)
Collect rainwater? (Just kidding.)
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:01 PM   #2
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I drink from the freshwater tank without hesitation. I religiously and carefully sanitize once a year as recommended. America is one of the few places in the world where you can count on potable water everywhere. I know of no reason to believe that campgrounds are an exception. They are tested regularly. Obviously it is not impossible to get bad water, but that is true in your home as well. I have no evidence that the risk is not very small.

EDIT: We never ever drink or store water from untested sources such as surface streams, etc. If we ever needed to drink such water, we would use a proper backpacking filter pump.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:08 PM   #3
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I wash vegetables and fruit with it, brush my teeth with it, shower with it. But I don't actually drink it, though I could.
That's how we operate too. Cooking, washing, brushing - everything but espresso and drinking. For drinking we carry gallon jugs from either home or supermarkets.

Because I'm not drinking the water, I don't bother to sanitize the fresh tank.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:15 PM   #4
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As a child I travelled/camped with my parents in class C/A motorhomes. We always drank the water from the fresh tank, never had any issues. I do the same in my Class B today. I do follow some reasonable maintenance for the fresh tank such as not storing it with water in the tank and sanitizing as recommended.
If you are concerned about water quality look into getting a decent filter to sit between the source and your fill point. It will at least catch some contaminates, although likely not bacteria or viruses.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:25 PM   #5
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I hope this doesn't count as thread hijacking, but:

The issue of storing water (or not) in the tanks when not in use is interesting. I tend to be inconsistent on this. Does anybody have any factual evidence to suggest that this is good or bad? "Common sense" might suggest draining it. OTOH, keeping chlorinated water in the tank might help a little, as long as the chlorine lasts (which I understand to be not very long). Anybody have any actual facts?
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:35 PM   #6
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I'm in AZ I store tanks dry
( and they do dry when sitting with drain cock open)


when preparing for a trip I add 2 tbsp tri-chlor ( pool shock) and fill tank a few days in advance and will run city water hook up & through all the lines to clear out anything and get water through the system

(this also primes the pump)


After a few days I will dump the water and refill

This is generally used for washing & flushing


We carry 3 sturdy gallon jugs for our consumption of a size which will fit in the 3 way, we refill these from known good sources

on return home opening the drain and running the taps dry for storage


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Old 07-15-2020, 03:40 PM   #7
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There is a lot of info about the interwebs on storing water. I doubt that you are going to find any hard answers, rather just general guidelines. Lots of (more) reputable sources suggest 6 months when stored properly.
- Chlorine helps, but it can only overcome so much and is not effective against all pathogens such as some protozoa.
- A tank that is pristine will be able to keep clean water potable much longer than a tank that isn't.
- Even the composition and age of a tank will have some impact as the tank off-gasses or is exposed to high levels of chemicals that break down the plastics enough to provide a non-smooth wall surface that bacteria can cling to.
- Even the water source itself will introduce significant variables that you may not even be aware of. For example, the water chemical composition that may inhibit certain disinfectant action or whether any chemical disinfectant is even present.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:52 PM   #8
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Good info.
I should clarify, though. I am not asking about long-term storage of potable water. It makes sense to drain and refill immediately before each trip. What I am wondering about is the pros and cons of leaving water in the tank, from the perspective of maintaining sanitation in the tank. Given that you likely can't really dry out the inside of the tank even if you drain it, it is not clear to me which approach is healthier.
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Old 07-15-2020, 04:17 PM   #9
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I would suggest that the amount of liquid water that remains in a tank after allowing it to drain properly is negligible and presents a greatly reduced medium for water-borne pathogens to breed.

If you are rotating water regularly then the disinfectant present in the fresh water (assuming it has any) should be more than sufficient to overcome whatever has managed to grow in that little bit of water. That might not be the case if you leave a tank full of water and develop a bacteria film across the entire inside of the tank. But if you do a more aggressive disinfection of the tank more regularly then it changes the equation.

It's easy to get paranoid. I think you can rely on the general guidelines that people have been using and then extrapolate from them where you should be on your own schedule, water type and use. That will help you as you will be able to adapt to many different situations, water sources, etc. without doing more than you need to.
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Old 07-15-2020, 04:21 PM   #10
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I also will drink water from the fresh water tank without hesitation. I fill using a white potable water hose (three of them actually given the distance between hose bib and van parking spot). I cycle the water several times a year, dumping unused water through the low point drain. OTOH, the spouse prefers bottled water, so we pick up jugs of same when grocery shopping. When in a campground with water hookups, we use those. Boondocking for several days is not something we've done.
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Old 07-15-2020, 05:22 PM   #11
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We are presently experiencing the situation you describe as a potential. It can be hard in the middle of nowhere. We have 2.5 gallon jugs for showers, one gallon jugs for coffee and cooking, bottles for drinking.

MrNomer filled one shower jug and one cooking jug at a campground—we paid to stay there so we could get water. UGH! We assume it is potable, but it has an ugly brown sludge with particles and slime that settled out. It would ruin my shower.
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Old 07-15-2020, 06:33 PM   #12
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We have 12-gal stainless steel fresh water tank and 4-gal Isotemp stainless steel marine water heater and use water for cooking, personal hygiene and drinking. Water is drained after every trip and fill before every trip. All system is disinfected with bleach once per year or more. Tank can be pressure filled only. For drinking on the road, we tend to drink a lot of unflavored mineral bottled water.
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Old 07-15-2020, 06:35 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProB View Post
I wash vegetables and fruit with it, brush my teeth with it, shower with it. But I don't actually drink it, though I could.
Quote:
Originally Posted by @Michael View Post
That's how we operate too. Cooking, washing, brushing - everything but espresso and drinking. For drinking we carry gallon jugs from either home or supermarkets.

Because I'm not drinking the water, I don't bother to sanitize the fresh tank.
Same as both above except I don't brush my teeth with it (although I wouldn't panic if I forgot and did so) and I still sanitize my fresh water tank once a year (just as a precaution).
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Old 07-15-2020, 07:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProB View Post
....

So I'm wondering what your "strategy" for drinking water is.

Just drink the from freshwater tank? (Maybe you boil it first?)
Bottled water?
Buy a big jug and fill up from those filtered water stations from the supermarket?
Rivers and streams? Lakes? (again, boiling first?)
Collect rainwater? (Just kidding.)
Hi, ProB. You have asked a question that has an extraordinary number of variables impacting the answer, but I'll give you a few pointers.

First, my perspective derives from the following. I have my Texas Class D water operator's coursework complete. I stopped short of getting my state license because I'm not operating any water treatment systems right now and there are time and money costs of maintaining a license (I might do that kind of thing as a part time gig in retirement). I also have a Master's degree in the natural sciences and I make my living as an environmental permitting consultant.

BLUF: I personally won't drink water that is not in possession of a regulation-compliant chlorine residual, unless I know for sure that it has been properly disinfected by some other method - and that the state of disinfection has been maintained across time.

Chlorination only lasts around 4 days. I'm not sure where the old rule of thumb came from about disinfecting fresh water tanks just once a year.

Of course, in order for [water that originally had a compliant chlorine residual but then lost it] to cause a problem for a human drinker, it would need a source of introduced pathogens, and some way of sustaining those pathogens metabolically. My guess is that most dechlorinated RV fresh water tanks don't pose much risk to people because they don't furnish either requirement. But life is hard enough, and I don't feel like becoming that rare chick who gets sick because I drank raw water.

^^ Spoken like a true southerner. Prevailing climate is one of the variables that should be weighed when making drinking water decisions. We have waterborne diseases coming out of our eyeballs in the Deep South. Only rigorous public health standards keep them at bay.

It's an interesting time for you to raise this question because, if everything works out, I'm going to enter 2-week pandemic quarantine in my van at a location that has no utilities - it's totally off-grid, half a kilometer from the nearest development.

I cannot carry enough water for 2 people for 2 weeks (husband with me); therefore, I have to purify and disinfect it myself from the lake that my property abuts. The sequence I chose is as follows:

(1) Filter 2 gallons of raw lake water through this one micron polypro filter sock to remove detritus, algae, big swimming critters, larvae, soil particulates, etc.

(2) Boil that pre-filtered water on our camp fire. I bought a special stockpot just for this purpose.

(3) After it cools, run it through my Big Berkey filter.

If rainy weather quashes my campfire, I will also have the capacity to chlorinate as my step (2). However, Nova Scotia has a crypto issue, and chlorination is not as effective as boiling where crypto is concerned. Good old fashioned boiling is my first choice always. Prior to getting a Class B, I backpacked and tent-camped all over America, and drank absolutely every kind of water I could scrape up off the ground and run through my Jetboil prior to consumption. I never got sick, never even uttered a stray belch. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

Just FYI, being a propos of this subject, here's a pic showing POTABLE, TREATED water (yellow) after having been run through the Big Berkey (clear). Even if local drinking water meets health standards, it's not always pretty or palatable. I dare you to try drinking it straight up from any municipality on the Texas Plains. That stuff is *vile*. And this particular stuff, below, is from Deep East Texas, which is not much better.

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Old 07-15-2020, 10:13 PM   #15
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Yearly sanitize system. Drain, including drain water heater and clean that tank. We usually take short, 4-5 day trips and before leaving I fill with fresh water + a tad of bleach. Upon returning we drain FW tank and leave spigot open to dry as thoroughly as possible.

FW used for washing hands, dishes, [navy] shower and toilet.

Filtered water from home taken in jugs for cooking and drinking.

Our longest trip was 2 weeks from Phoenix to Glacier and back. Bought a 5 gallon jug of water going into park for drinking, etc. Had to refill FW tank at campground before heading home. I carry a small dose of bleach for those types of refills.
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Old 07-19-2020, 11:06 AM   #16
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Berkey Water filter. a little pricey, but it has solved all of our drinking water issues. Small enough to carry easily and will last forever. We use it at home as well.

https://www.berkeyfilters.com/products/travel-berkey
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Old 07-19-2020, 11:23 AM   #17
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I would drink water from my tanks but my wife won't so I find it easier to carry a smaller aquatainer filled from home.

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Old 07-20-2020, 01:24 AM   #18
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We use our fresh water tank for washing dishes, flushing the toilet, and washing our hands with soap. We use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and brushing our teeth. If we have a city water connection, we use it for everything after the first 24 hours or so. We don't camp that often and I would like to flush the lines out a bit before I cook with the water.
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Old 07-21-2020, 08:52 PM   #19
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I add a capful of bleach when I fill my fresh water tank (34 gal), and have no hesitation about drinking from it. We don't actually drink from it much, though--family of 5 in a Roadtrek 190, so we would blow through those 34 gallons way too fast if we regularly used it for drinking water.

We bought these to carry additional drinking water with us. Two fit between the front seats, and if we're planning to be without access to fresh water for an extended period we'll put the other 2 under the dining table in back.

I've always been a tap water drinker, and have never had an issue. All over the US, plus Italy, France, Germany, and Chile--no issues. Stuck with bottled water in Mexico, Peru, and Colombia on the advice of friends who live there, though.
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Old 07-22-2020, 11:27 PM   #20
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That's how we operate too. Cooking, washing, brushing - everything but espresso and drinking. For drinking we carry gallon jugs from either home or supermarkets.

Because I'm not drinking the water, I don't bother to sanitize the fresh tank.
Same here.
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