“Till taught by pain, men know not water’s worth.” — Byron
For the RVer, the “care and feeding” of the fresh water system is critical. No water, no showers, no dish washing, no cooking—and so it goes. How you get your fresh water in your rig, and how you care for it once it’s there is the topic of this month’s column.
The Hose Knows
Presuming that the water supply at the campground or RV park is safe, once that precious stuff leaves the tap, it’s up to you to take care of it. But even before you screw the hose onto the faucet threads, are you sure the connection is safe? We’ve heard of some RVers who are really concerned about what somebody else might have done to their connection before they arrived. Perhaps someone used an otherwise potable water faucet outlet to hook up a “dirty” hose and clean a holding tank. If that’s a concern, consider thoroughly wiping down the faucet threads with disinfectant, then running the tap to clear the disinfectant.
Not just any old hose will do for either filling your tank, or directly pressurizing your RV fresh water supply system. I know, when you were a kid on a hot summer day, it was the greatest thing to take a long drink out of the garden hose between water fights. But not all hoses are created equal, or safe for public consumption. Unless a hose is clearly sold as safe for drinking water, it’s best to assume it is NOT safe. Why so?
Many vinyl hoses are made with a process that uses lead to stabilize the plastic. That lead can actually leach into the water. Even in minute quantities, lead can have a debilitating effect on human health, particularly for children. The materials used in a “drinking water quality” hose should be clearly labeled as FDA approved. We spoke with a representative of Teknor Apex Company, a major supplier of hoses sold by Camping World, and asked about its products. While the company’s RV hoses are typically made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the representative assured us that lead is not used in their manufacturing process, nor will they allow the use of recycled materials in their hoses—lest the source material contain lead.
Even if you are using hoses with material approved by the FDA, the Teknor Apex representative suggested that RVers do well to run the water through the hose for a minute or so before filling the tank. Why so? A hose with standing water in it can provide a wonderful medium for bacterial growth. Running water through the hose first will help to clear any undesirables out of the hose onto the ground, and not in your tank.
So we asked: What of those of us who connect a hose to our RV as a primary water source, and leave it connected? Again the answer: If you’re going to drink the water, you might want to run the tap for a minute or so before drawing a drink. The problem of bacterial contamination increases with warmer weather.
For our part, we’ve just found it safer (and tastier) to simply use filtered and processed drinking water instead of imbibing tap water.
Helpful Fittings to Have and to Hold
Even before you hang the hose on the tap, there are a couple of helpful devices you might need. First, there are situations where the threads on the water faucet are stripped, or deliberately not there—to prevent folks from hooking a hose to an otherwise good spigot. Assuming you have the right to the water, a little device known as a “water thief” can help out here.
The thief is a rubber sleeve that snugs over a spigot, and at the other end, a brass-threaded connection allows your water hose to hook up normally. If you’re filling up your tank, just slip the thiefon the faucet, hook up your hose, and fill away. If you’ll be putting any real pressure on the hose—say hooking it directly to your “city water” inlet on the RV, you’ll need to use a hose clamp to snug the rubber sleeve end onto the faucet.
A water pressure regulator can also save you lots of headaches. Typically RVers complain that the pressure they encounter in a campground or RV park is too low, but it only takes one case of over pressurization to blow a fitting in your rig to really make your blood boil. A simple RV water pressure regulator can prevent over pressure from doing real damage. Where do you put it? We’ve seen plenty of RVers who hook the things between the water hose and the city water inlet on the rig. But why not protect the water hose too? Hook it on the campground faucet, thence to the hose and all your bases are covered. Yes, there is a slight fall-off of water volume when you use this rig, but the peace of mind is usually figured to be worthwhile. Is it worth the extra money to buy the fancy adjustable water pressure regulators? Not from what we’ve heard. Some say they simply don’t work as advertised.
Finally, a fitting you probably do want between the hose and the city water inlet is an entry elbow. If your water hose kinks or bends where it mates up with your water inlet, you can be sure water flow will be impaired, and a premature death of the water hose is likely. For less than $10 you can buy a metal elbow that allows the water hose to hang vertically, rather than cramped.
Tanks Clean as a Whistle
If you boondock away from city water, you’ll be glad to have a fresh water tank that is clean and safe. Sanitizing a fresh water tank is straightforward. First, determine the capacity of your tank, and bring it to near full of fresh water. The trick is to add a half-cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of tank capacity. But to do this, you won’t just dump bleach into the tank. Instead 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 be allowed to sit for at least three hours, and 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 apple cider 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.
Now you’ve a clean tank, keep it clean. Don’t let your fresh water tank filler sit about without a proper cap. In hot, dry climates, you’d be surprise how a trail of ants can sniff out your fresh water tank and attempt to infiltrate your RV “watering hole.” It’s a major headache clearing ants (or other contaminants) out of your tank—so much easier to keep them out in the first place.
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking Basics—A Guide to Living Without Hookups, which covers a full range of dry camping topics. They also provide great resources in their book, Camp Hosting USA—Your Guide to State Park Volunteering. Visit www.icanrv.com for more information.