Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
Hi Bob — I enjoy your articles and appreciate the insights. You spoke to Dan about conserving water but the truck camper picture prompted yet another question. We are considering using a solar-powered 12-volt DC water pump with an inlet strainer and an inline whole house water filter to refill our fresh water tank from available natural sources such as the running stream in the truck camper picture. Do you know if that is safe? Perhaps adding a bit of bleach to the fresh water tank to kill any bacteria or ??? We always filter our drinking water at the sink and the ice maker, but wondering if the fast-moving water from a creek, river or even a spring would be safe. —Ken W.
Hey Ken — When I was a kid growing up in eastern Pennsylvania my dad would take me hiking in the Pocono Mountains and we often stopped by springs where we drank directly out of them. I never got sick. But I’ve grown more cautious now and I think with good reason. The nation’s waterways are much more polluted and contain many more pathogens and microorganisms today than back then, so you can’t be totally safe drinking from any water source that hasn’t been treated.
Any natural water source is also going to be home to birds, fish, and animals that do their business in or near these water sources. You don’t know what went into that water farther upstream. You also don’t know what the source of water is that bubbles out of the ground as a spring. It is just not safe to gamble on drinking water from unknown sources. And this goes for using the water for any use that you may ingest, such as for brushing teeth, washing veggies, and cleaning cooking and eating utensils.
And those filters of yours will not remove all of the nasty organisms eager to enter your body. The easiest and safest way to treat untreated water is to boil it. According to the Washington State Department of Health and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, you should bring the water to a boil and keep it rolling for one minute to purify it. At altitudes above one mile you should increase the rolling time to three minutes. And if you decide to test whether a water source is OK by drinking a glass, you may go months, even years, and not get sick. But when you do – you will greatly regret it. Consider instead carrying Jerry jugs or collapsible containers of potable water to last you through your RV boondocking trip.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .