Sierra Nevada Airstreams -> TT Owner's Guide -> Living - Enjoyment of the whispering winds, the zephyrs, the airstreams of the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin areas of the United States.


Water is a rather unique chemical compound. It is nearly a universal solvent which makes it useful for cleaning. It gets less dense as it freezes so ice floats and frozen pipes can burst. Human beings are made mostly of water. It is a critical component that we need to maintain health and it also contributes significantly to our comfort.

Drinking water is the one consumable item that should not be rationed when supplies are short. At a minimum, plan on two quarts of water per day per person for drinking and another two quarts per day for other purposes. That's a minimum of one gallon per day per person. A person can live in an RV quite comfortably with daily navy showers (wet down, soap up, rinse off) on less than ten gallons per day.

This is why most RV water tanks hold around fifty gallons because that can easily last a couple a weekend if a bit of care is used. At eight pounds per gallon, this fifty gallons is a 400 pound load and it is the weight, rather than the space, that usually limits how big a tank is usually installed in an RV.


There are three factors involved in the safety of stored water and all involve contamination. This can come from contaminants that get into poorly sealed containers or connections, contaminants that come from the material of the container, or contaminants that come from previous contents the container may have held.

The term used to describe appropriate containers for water storage is "food grade" but it is often difficult to find out just what this means. A food grade container is usually defined as a container for food or drink that you buy in the grocery store or some container explicitly sold for the purpose of containing food or drink. What this means is that the FDA or other governmental bodies that define food grade have regulations that only a chemist could understand.

There are times when you can't really use the idea that food grade means a container holding food found in a grocery store though. For instance, milk has fats that tend to attach to the plastic in bottles and are extremely difficult to clean out. The very minute amount of these fat molecules can contaminate water and shorten its shelf life if stored for long periods of time (more than a month) in ex-plastic milk jugs. Two liter soda bottles are often cited as a good choice for water bottles because soda, especially diet soda, is a good cleaner, the bottles are fairly sturdy, and they have a good tight screw on cap.

Your RV storage tank is food grade plastic. Nothing should have been stored in it except water. So it serves as a decent water storage container. The problem is that it is not well sealed and so subject to contamination from the outside. This means that it should not be used to store water for long periods, it should be flushed occasionally to clean it, disinfectants should be used, and care should be taken on filling to reduce the risk of contamination.

Note that water from public water supplies, at least in the United States, are required to meet standards that include absence of contamination and the inclusion of disinfectants so it should not need additional safety treatment if properly handled.

What ever you use to hold or carry drinking water, keep in mind what has been in it in the past and what it is made of. Would you care to drink either of those?

Food Grade Water Hose

Your RV will also need to have a food grade hose to connect to a water faucet to fill your tank. This hose should be used for nothing other than your RV water supply. It should be well drained between uses and then the ends should be capped. Sanitize the ends of the hose - and the faucet connection - prior to use. Flush the hose before using it to fill your tank by letting a good flow of water go through it for a couple of seconds.

A food grade hose is one designed for RV water use. You can often taste the hose if you drink from water that went through a non food grade hose. The contaminants you taste could be hazardous to your health.

Supplies Stowage

Any supplies used for fresh water need to be stowed in a compartment completely separate from anything used to drain your waste tanks including hoses, valves, or connectors. Fittings and other parts and pieces that will touch your drinking water supply should be stored in sealable plastic containers.

Also keep your drinking water supplies separate from anything that might contaminate it. This includes fuel, cleaning supplies, paint, and garbage.

Sanitizing and disinfecting

The only chemical needed to sanitize water is generic household bleach. This is a 5.25% solution of sodium hypochlorite in water. Check the bottle - you don't want the fancy stuff. The only ingredient besides the 95% water is sodium hypochlorite. Be sure it is labeled properly and indicates how much to use per gallon or quart. Sixteen drops to a gallon of water or a quarter cup per fifteen gallons is usually recommended. If you can't get a slight bleach smell from the treated water after half an hour, repeat the dosage and let sit for another 15 minutes. If there is excessive hypochlorite taste or odor to your water, try a rinse with a quart of vinegar per 5 gallons of water.

You can also boil water for about five minutes to disinfect it. If the water has 'stuff' in it, such as salts, then you made need to distill it.


It is often useful to have a few two or three gallon water containers with good handles. When full, these run about twenty pounds so they are easy to carry and handle. They can be convenient for a variety of purposes.

Cold water in the 'fridge can be a refreshing drink and will also serve to help regulate the temperature. This can be important while on the road so you can turn off the gas and not worry about food spoilage, especially if your water bottles are frozen!

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