What’s In My Water?
By Steve Froese, F276276
For many of us, travel season is just around the corner, and whether you are thinking about regular spring travel or just contemplating your first shakedown trip of the year, it is important to make sure your plumbing system is ready. Regardless of whether your RV has been in winter storage, periodic water system maintenance is very important.
It’s not just about “dewinterizing,” either. I have written articles about winterizing, dewinterizing, and even spring shakedowns (see “Our Picks” below), but this month I want to discuss some tips specific to the fresh-water system.
Many RV owners use filtration systems to keep their water fresh and safe to drink. Here in Vancouver, British Columbia, we have some of the cleanest and best-tasting water in the world, so we don’t use any sort of filtration or bottled water at our home. However, when we are traveling, we do use a “whole house” water filtration system.
Many types of water filtration arrangements exist, from single-cartridge to multi-element systems. Filters are available with inline, internal, and external mounting. Many single-cartridge carbon systems filter to 5 microns, while dual-cartridge systems commonly are rated at 5 microns for the first filter and 0.5 microns for the second. The first-stage filter removes larger particles, while the finer element removes tiny particles such as bacteria, cysts, giardia, chlorine, and volatile and organic compounds (VOC). Filters rated at 20 microns also are available and are commonly found in inline filtration cartridges. Conventional filtration media includes granulated active carbon (GAC) and carbon block.
If you are concerned about water quality and want the cleanest possible drinking water, dual-filter systems are your best bet, but your needs also will depend on the quality of water in the areas where you will be traveling. It is not within the scope of this article to describe filtration systems in detail, so do your research and source a filtration system that works best for you. Many RVs come with factory-installed water filtration systems, and these generally are adequate for most needs, unless you are very particular about your water particulates.
Another important way to freshen your water supply is to periodically disinfect your potable water system.
Not all RV owners are familiar with this task, but think about the bacteria, chemicals, and microorganisms that can form over time in an RV fresh-water system. While not all are harmful, they can cause bad odors and other issues.
Fortunately, a simple household recipe can be used to disinfect the potable water system. I recommend this procedure for all new plumbing systems, those that have not been used for some time, ones that require disinfection, or anytime an RV is put into long-term storage.
- Prepare a chlorine solution using 1 gallon (4 liters) of water and ¼ cup (60 milliliters) of unscented household bleach (sodium hypochlorite solution) for each 15 gallons (60 liters) of water tank capacity. For example, in the case of a 30-gallon water tank, mix 2 gallons (8 liters) of water with ½ cup (120 milliliters) of bleach. Pour this chlorine solution into the empty fresh tank. This procedure will result in a residual chlorine concentration of 50 parts per million (ppm) in the water system. For a deeper clean, you may use a 100-ppm concentration. In the latter case, mix ½ cup (120 milliliters) of household bleach with 1 gallon (4 liters) of water. Again, 1 gallon (4 liters) of the solution should be used for each 15 gallons (60 liters) of tank capacity.
- Finish filling the tank with potable water. Once the tank is full, open each faucet and run the water until a distinct odor of chlorine can be detected in the water discharged. Don’t forget the hot-water taps.
- Allow the system to stand with the chlorine solution in the water tank and lines for at least 4 hours when disinfecting with 50-ppm residual chlorine. If a shorter time is desired, a 100-ppm chlorine concentration should be permitted to stand in the system for at least 1 hour.
- Drain and flush with potable water.
Performing this simple but often overlooked procedure on a regular basis can keep your fresh-water plumbing system clean, fresh, and safe.