How Do RVs Get Water?

You may wonder what RV owners do to get water to fill their fresh water tank. There are many options.

Fresh water tanks are essential for RVs because they provide drinking water for showers and sinks. 

In this article, I will outline 9 places to get clean water for your RV, and explain a little about how RV plumbing works and how to keep it in good working order.

How the RV Plumbing System Works

The plumbing system in an RV is pretty straightforward. Fresh water is supplied either by a direct campsite faucet hookup, or by the onboard fresh water holding tank. Depending on where the water is coming from, either the campground faucet or the onboard water pump supplies water to the faucets. If the water needs to be heated, it is first pumped through a water heater before being sent to the faucets. 

Places to Fill Your RV Fresh Water Tank

1. Fuel stations

On occasion, you may find yourself at a place that doesn’t have a fresh water spout. Just ask the attendant if he/she can hook you up. On rare occasions, you might find a janitor sink in a store that allows you to connect your hose to it.

You’ll find that most attendants will gladly provide you with fresh water if you ask nicely.

2. Campgrounds

If you’re looking for clean drinking water, one of the best places to look is at the local campgrounds. Most types of campsites offer potable water, either free as part of your stay, or for a small fee if you are passing through.

3. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service ranger stations

You’ll find these sites at various points along hiking trails and camping spots. You may even find them near lakes and rivers. Just look for a sign indicating that there is a faucet nearby.

4. Rest stops

Public faucets are often found at many rest stops, especially those with dump stations.

5. Dump stations

Potable water is usually available at dump stations. Fees may apply to some, while others are free.

6. National Parks

Water spigots are sometimes available at visitor centers. Simply ask a ranger if one is available, and he or she will likely point you in the right direction. Many national parks allow you to fill up your water even if you aren’t staying the night. The entrance fee to the park was paid by you, after all.

7. City, County, and State Parks

There are usually water fountains throughout these parks. Be careful when drinking water from sources other than potable (or “clean”) tap water, but they are often labeled as such.

8. Any business you patronize

One of the best places and times to ask if you can fill up your water is at any business you have just used. Whether it’s a restaurant or an office supply store, it’s human instinct to help people who help them. 

9. Churches

Water and thirst are frequently mentioned in the Bible (for example, John 7:37). You can ask the pastor or office staff at a church for water if they are willing to provide it. They won’t turn you away.

Filtering Your Water

You should definitely use a water filter when refilling your clear water tank. Otherwise, you risk damaging your pump if there are any unfiltered particles in the water.

RV owners who don’t have a water filter attached to their fresh hoses usually run the risk of damaging their pumps. However, most RV manufacturers recommend installing a water filter at the beginning of every season.

If you don’t have a water filtration system installed in your RV, you’ll need to purchase one that attaches to the end of your new hose.

Make sure that you install the filter correctly. Don’t forget to tighten down the screws securely. Also, make sure that the filter isn’t clogged. If it is, you won’t be able to properly clean it.

Disinfecting Your Fresh Tank

To prevent any bacteria growth in your fresh tanks, you should disinfect them at least once a year. This helps keep your RV plumbing system free of harmful bacteria.

You can disinfect your fresh tanks using chlorine bleach. Simply pour 1/2 cup of household bleach into the tank and let it soak overnight. Rinse thoroughly the next day and let it dry completely.

Another option is to use a commercial product called StarSan. This product works great and doesn’t leave a bad odor behind. Just follow the directions on the package and rinse well afterward.

Finally, you can use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water to disinfect your fresh tanks. This method is effective, but requires emptying the tank and refilling with fresh water afterwards.

After disinfecting your fresh tanks, you’ll notice a slight vinegar smell. Don’t worry, it won’t last long.

This process is especially helpful if you plan to use your fresh tanks for drinking water.

Tips for Filling Your RV Fresh Water Tank

Depending on the type of RV you have, there could be two different setups for filling up the fresh water tank and hooking your RV to a city water connection at an RV park.

Setup 1; There will be two separate connections on your RV, one for filling up your RV’s fresh water tank and a separate screw-on connection for hooking to city water.

Setup 2: There will be one screw on connection that you connect the hose to. There will be a valve that you use to choose whether you are going to fill up the fresh water tank or use city water from that connection.

* When filling up your RV’s fresh water or using city water the only type of hose you should use is a RV Drinking Water Hose. These hoses are designed to be used for drinking water and will not add any strange tastes to your water.

* When filling up your RV’s fresh water tank or using city water make sure that you have a good quality RV Water Filter attached to the fresh water hose. A good filter will help in filtering out bad tastes and sediments that can contaminate your RV’s fresh water systems. You should replace these filters at least once every 6 months.

Some RV’s are also equipped with separate filters on the kitchen and sometimes the bathroom sinks, so you need to make sure that these filters or Filter Cartridges are also changed every 6 months.

* When filling up your fresh water tank you will want to go in the RV when the tank is partially filled and turn on your RV’s water pump and then turn on the hot water on one of your faucets so that the hot water tank in your RV gets filled up. This can add an additional 6 to 10 gallons of water to your system and will also allow you to operate your RV’s hot water heater without damaging it.

* You should sanitize your RV’s fresh water system, especially if it has been sitting for a while. I would recommend that you read our article Freshen Up Your RV Water System.

* Lastly, if you are not planning on doing a lot of boondocking (camping where there is no water or electric connections), there is no need to keep your RV’s fresh water tank full. Keeping it full will only make you carry around extra weight that you don’t need.