Not everyone who has an RV takes full advantage of the “self-contained” aspects of their rig. While some fill up their fuel and water tanks and head off for parts unknown, others enjoy taking their home away from home to an RV park. There, they connect up to utilities and spend their time relaxing. Why worry about water tanks?
While RV resort camping may be your forte, your rolling home could prove to be quite invaluable in times of disaster. All of us are encouraged to have a “go bag” ready in case we’re called on to “get out of Dodge” because of some sort of crisis. Having the RV ready as an escape vehicle may mean the difference between a rough time of it—and an unbelievably rough time of it. Don’t know about you, but the thought of trying to sleep on a cot while packed in a National Guard armory with hundreds of other people just doesn’t have the appeal of our own, comfortable RV bed.
But will your RVs emergency water supply be suitable for the occasion? How long can you safely keep water in the tank before worrying about bugs?
Our germ-free society seems to be bent on scaring us to death. If you believe the TV commercials, if you don’t wash with antibacterial soap, you’re sure enough going to drop over dead. It’s no wonder that many RVers worry about how long it’s safe to keep water on board. Some even think they should drain their water heater between outings.
We checked with Uncle Sam’s water storage safety experts on the subject of storing drinking water, and here’s the thinking of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Much depends on the quality of your water source. If you are filling up your RV tanks with water from a “known” good source (a municipal water supply as an example) then stop worrying about the water. Before you fill, make sure your tanks are properly sanitized. Not sure how? We’ve included a handy sidebar tutorial. Once your tanks are cleaned, follow these guidelines:
Using a drinking-water-safe hose, fill your tank from your safe supply. Make sure the tank is securely capped to keep out unwelcome pests and road dust. Now settle back and relax. According to FEMA, replacing the water every six months is all that’s required. What about water in your water heater tank? Remember, when you fire up the heater, a lot of bugs are likely to be cooked to death. And if the water supply you originally filled up with is good, then the same six-month recommendation applies.
If you’re really worried about water quality, FEMA suggests you purchase commercially produced drinking water, and keep it closed until you need it. It should be good until the “use by” expiration date printed on the bottle. That stuff in your tank should be more than adequate for showering and even cooking with.
And for you “only go to the RV park” crowd, here’s another thought. You could actually pretend there’s an emergency and head off to one of those places where you need to bring your own utilities. Maybe just for a night! You may find that “boondocking” is a lot more fun than you ever imagined!
Tanks Clean as a Whistle
Sanitizing an RV fresh-water tank is straightforward. First, you’ll need to determine the capacity of your fresh-water tank, and bring it to near full of fresh water. The trick is to add a ¼-cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of tank capacity. But to do this, you won’t just dump bleach into the tank. Rather, get a container with a capacity of at least a quart. Bring the container near to full, and carefully add the requisite amount of bleach. Mix carefully, and funnel this diluted solution into your fresh-water tank. Top off the tank with fresh water.
Now run your water pump and draw water through all fixtures until you smell the odor of chlorine. Everything should now be allowed to sit for at least three hours—overnight if possible. Once the wait is over, drain the fresh-water tank and “sweeten” it. After treating with chlorine (an alkaline), using baking soda (another alkaline) may not work as well as using the old vinegar trick.
Get yourself apple cider vinegar and, following the same physical procedures as for the bleach, add a quart of vinegar for every 15 gallons of tank capacity. Of course, you’ll need to “up the size” of your dilution container. Again, you’re ahead to let the cider solution sit in the system for a few hours. Drain it out, add fresh water to the tank, and run the fixtures until the odor is gone.
Listen to Russ and Tiña’s weekly podcast on a variety of RV topics at yourRVPodcast.com.