Drinking the Water in Your RV

“Do you drink water from the city water in RV parks?” This question in an RV Facebook group recently received over 100 responses. We put them in categories based on the highest level of filtering that each response represented. Here are the results from 133 people:

survey results of drinking water sources in RVs
Only 17% of the RVers who replied drink water straight from the water supply without filtering. Almost twice as many (32%) use some type of filter before they drink the water in their RV. The largest group (38%) buy bottled water for drinking and/or cooking and pets.

So let’s look at the cost of the most selected options. Obviously the least expensive option is to drink water straight from the water supply with no filter, but the majority of RVers believe the water should be filtered in some way before drinking.

Hose Filters

rv hose filter attached inline

So what does it cost to use a hose filter? One of the most popular hose filters is the Camco Taste Pure. This filter costs about $30 with a hose protector. Replacement filters run about $8 each after that. Camco suggests replacing the filters after about 3 months’ use, so one would expect to use 4 per year if they full time. This would cost about $55 for one year. Sounds affordable, right? Before you decide on this option, it is important when looking at water filters to look at their micron rating, and the Camco TastePure has a 100 micron rating.

Micron Ratings

Micron ratings let you know the size of the openings in the filter. The larger the number, the more it allows through. As a point of reference, bacteria range from 0.2 to 2 microns in width/diameter and 1 to 10 microns in length. Viruses range from 0.004 to 0.1 microns. Insecticides can be 0.5 to 10 microns, and mold ranges from 10 to 30 microns. A 100 micron filter will not be able to filter any of these from the water; most will pass right through. Be aware when a filter says it can reduce things or whether it eliminates it to a certain percentage. Both mean very different things. Filters with smaller micron ratings reduce water flow, so it makes sense that a high micron filter would be used at the water spigot. But what about when it comes into the RV? Based on the responses from the post, several RVers choose to add another level of protection for their drinking water once it enters the RV: a pitcher water filter.

Pitcher Filter

By using a pitcher filter, such as Zero, Pur, or Brita, you add another level of filtering with a much lower micron rating therefore eliminating far more from your water. These pitchers are in the $35 range with replacement filters costing close to $6. Most recommend replacing the filter after 40 gallons. This adds up to per gallon of filtered water costing around $0.15. I would recommend doing research on the specific pitcher you use as to what it can actually eliminate from the water.
water pitchers with water filters

Bottled Water

Bottled water is a very popular choice for drinking water, and not just for RVs. Many people only drink bottled water even when in their houses. Not all bottled water is the same though, and many brands have been tested to be equivalent to plain tap water.
bottled water isn't the best option for RVs
Still, it is a common solution for RVers that want a consistent water supply. You can get a 40-pack of Nestle Pure Life bottled water (a top brand) for about $4.50. This contains a little over 5 gallons of water with each gallon costing close to $1.25 per gallon. (A 40-pack also weighs about 40 pounds.) Another popular bottled water, Evian, can run as much as $13 at Sam's, and that is only for 12 bottles! This would make a gallon of Evian water cost $5.50!
Now, to save money, you can buy bottled water by the gallon jugs which run closer to $1.00, and even refill your own water containers from the Primo Reverse Osmosis station at Walmart for as little as $0.33 per gallon.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis is becoming a popular way to filter water, and was one of the “other filters” reported on the post. Combined with UV lighting, it can remove the majority of all impurities. There are some negative thoughts on Reverse Osmosis as it also removes beneficial minerals from the water, like calcium and magnesium. Some research suggests that long term use of exclusively reverse osmosis water could negatively affect your health.

Berkey Water Filter

Two Facebook responders said they used the Berkey Water Filters in their RV for drinking water. The Berkey filter is the most effective gravity fed water filter on the market in removing bacteria, pharmaceuticals, viruses, and more. It consists of a stainless steel canister which includes 2 Black Berkey filtering elements. You can add 2 fluoride filters to the system which work to remove arsenic as well. Each of the 2 Black Berkey filters purify 3,000 gallons of water, so the 2 together filter up to 6,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. If you filter 2 gallons of water every day, the filter will last over 8 years. Therefore, at a price of $230 for an entire setup, Berkey filtered water comes in at a little less than $0.04 per gallon.

What do we use?

So what filter(s) do we use? Our RV came with a standard water filter as a lot of RVs do. We left this filter in place just to keep larger particulates from entering our water lines. This water is used for showers, washing dishes, and washing clothes.

countertop Berkey Water Filter in RV
We use the countertop Berkey filter system for all other water: cooking, drinking, and pet water. We figured if we spent only $5 per week in bottled water, we would pay for the Berkey in less than 1 year. (We were actually spending far more than $5 per week for water, so we paid for ours in less time.) Berkey water is the cleanest, best tasting water we’ve ever had, and we don’t drink anything else. We each have a reusable water bottle, and we keep a container of cold Berkey water in the refrigerator. Because it is gravity-fed, it can be moved from the RV to a home, vacation rental, or anywhere else you want to use it. It is actually capable of purifying pond water (though we haven’t done this), and is used by the Red Cross in disaster relief areas and third world countries who do not have safe drinking water. We have been in situations where we are not connected to water and use whatever free water source we can find (think random spigots) for the Berkey while saving the water in the tank for showers, etc. It can add days to our stay without costing anything.

Before you decide

When deciding on a water filter, consider this: It doesn’t matter how many times you filter your water; repetition alone does not ensure anything. If you filter your water through 3 separate filters, but the smallest micron of any of them is 10, you aren’t getting as clean of water as someone who filters only once through a filter with a rating of 5. As an example, just think if you had 3 fish nets and each had different sized holes in the net. If you drop 100 minnows into the net with the smallest holes, that is the best it is going to get. Dropping the minnows into the other two nets with bigger holes beforehand will do you no good.

The Berkey is by far one of our 3 top favorite things in the RV, and one we could not live without. We know of an RVer that downsized from a Class A to a van, and even when their space was at a premium, their Berkey made the cut. Once you’ve owned one, no other water will do. As for the one respondent that only drinks beer, cheers my friend! Hope to meet you down the road one day!

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