It’s a very common complaint on Facebook groups and caravanning forums. The water in my tanks tastes terrible. Fortunately, there’s no great secret to ensuring the water stored in your RV’s tanks is clean and drinkable. Just follow our quick tips and you’ll always have great tasting water where ever you go.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.” You may laugh but even back in the 18th century, people knew the importance of having access to good, clean drinking water. Those of us who live in the cities have a tendency to take for granted having access to potable water that comes out of our household taps. What many of us don’t realise is that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, and us Aussies are among the world’s highest consumers of water per capita.
Australia receives little more than one per cent of the Earth’s available freshwater resources. As a result, access to freshwater varies considerably across the continent. Widespread and long term droughts and the occurrence of flooding can have a great effect on the quality of available water no matter where you are. Many communities rely on bore water which, while drinkable, can be laden with minerals that can impart an unusual taste on the water. Some may have a high sulphur content giving the water a slightly unpleasant odour. Whatever the reason, you can’t always rely on accessing the same high-quality water you are used to at home.
Most caravans and campers come fitted with water tanks making it possible for us to carry a supply of good drinking water. It’s great if you stay somewhere that has low-quality water or for times when you’re free-camping. Unfortunately, many owners complain about the taste and odour of the water from their tanks. The vast majority of caravan manufacturers use high-quality tanks suitable for holding drinking water so the problem usually lies with how these tanks are used.
Here are some easy tips for ensuring you have good clean water in your RV water tanks.
Cycle the water in your tanks regularly
If you leave water in your tanks too long, there’s a chance it will develop bacteria and algae, fouling the water. Either use the water in your tanks regularly or empty them periodically to ensure the water in them is fresh and drinkable. Run water through all the taps regularly to ensure no stagnant water sits in the plumbing. Change the water filter on your drinking water tap at least as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
Filter water going into your tanks
If you’re going to go to the trouble of filling your water tanks, you may as well ensure the water in there is as clean and pure as possible. There are many different types of water filters available on the market that are suitable for RV use. We have used the large twin filter units to great effect. They incorporate a sediment filter to remove dirt and other particles and an activated charcoal filter to remove any organic compounds and chlorine from the water.
Use the correct hose
Never fill your water tanks using a common garden hose as the plastic used in these will impart an unpleasant odour and taste to the water as it passes through it. Use only food-grade hoses. They are usually blue in colour however, before you purchase a new hose, check the packaging to confirm it is suitable for drinking water. Not all blue coloured hoses are food grade.
Keep your tanks clean
No matter how careful you are with the quality of water you put into your tanks, it is possible for the tanks to develop an unpleasant taste. There are many products available that are designed to clean water tanks, however, a popular remedy is to pour lime-flavoured cordial into the tanks and drive the vehicle around a bit to stir the liquid inside the tanks. Fill the tanks with water and drain. Refill with clean water and drain again. Do this as often as is necessary to remove any trace of the cordial taste in the water
Where to fill your water tanks
At the moment, Australia is experiencing a wetter than usual summer thanks to the effects of a current La Nina event. Regardless, many areas of the country remain in a drought so don’t assume it’s ok to fill your water tanks from anywhere you find a tap. Many towns are literally running out of water or are under severe water restrictions. Before you fill up it pays to ask first.
Filling up at caravan parks
The situation for many caravan parks may well be worse the further away from a major town they are. Some are not even connected to town water supplies and have to find their own water either from bores or other natural water sources. Some will have to purify their own water supply by running expensive reverse osmoses filtration systems.
Many caravan parks have a mix of potable and non-potable sources of water distributed throughout the park. Always ask the manager before filling up your water tanks at a caravan park.
Water filling stations
There are an increasing number of water filling stations popping up across the country that can service caravanners travelling through their towns. If you must travel with your water tanks full, look out for these filling stations and use them. You’ll be doing drought-affected communities a big favour.
Collecting Rain Water
Rainwater is about as clean and pure as you can get and, if it does rain, it can be a good opportunity to capture some water and use it to fill your tanks. If you have an old canvas camp shower, you can remove the showerhead and replace it with some plumbing connections and a click hose connection. Extend your awning and ensure one end is sitting lower than the other. This will enable the water to flow off the awning and down to one of the outer corners. Hang the camp shower at the lower corner of the awning so that the flow of the water falls into the camp shower. Connect a hose to the shower and run the other end into your water tank filling nozzle.
Transporting water to your campsite
You might be surprised to find that you may have limited or no access to fresh water at most free campsites. If you intend to stay at one location for more than a week or so, you may find it necessary to obtain water elsewhere and bring it back to your camp. One solution is to carry a collapsible water bladder. These are available in a range of sizes. They are lightweight and store away very easily. Keep in mind the larger tanks will take up a lot of room once full. The footwell behind the front seats is a good place to carry a filled water bladder.
Don’t ignore your basic water requirements
If you’re travelling through remote areas of Australia, water is essential for sustaining life. Human beings need to consume a certain amount of water per day in order to avoid dehydration. This amount of water increases when the weather is hot or if we are not 100% healthy. It is generally accepted that under normal circumstances, a healthy adult needs to consume 2-3 litres of water every day.
In the extreme environment of the outback where temperatures can reach in excess of 35 degrees Celsius for days on end, the body’s need for water increases dramatically. If you are physically active in these sorts of temperatures, your body can lose up to 2.5 litres of sweat per hour. In such extreme cases, we need to replace those lost fluids very quickly otherwise we will suffer the effects of dehydration.