I realize drinking water may seem like a boring subject to choose. However, finding water that is safe to drink is an extremely important topic and one that I couldn’t find any info on before we hit the road. After traveling more than a year and visiting about half the states in the country I feel we have enough experience to share our observations and opinions on the matter. And I wanted to share them in case anyone considering this lifestyle was interested.
When we started traveling I wondered if we would be able to reliably find good drinking water or whether we would have to buy it. We decided to start by trying to drink the local water and see what happened. I hated the idea of buying all our drinking water. The cost was one reason but, more importantly, consuming a product that requires that much packaging galled me. It certainly is not the most environmentally conscious thing to do.
We have a filter on the outside of our rig that we generally put all the water through that we use in camp or fill up our tank with.
We then have a separate spigot on our sink that runs the water we intend to drink through another filter. We discovered that if we ran water through both of these filters we rarely found the taste or smell to be objectionable. And it makes it even more palpable to us if we refrigerated it before drinking it.
The first month on the road went well. We didn’t have any issues with the local drinking water we encountered. Then we went to Big Bend National Park. A couple days in to our visit and we started experiencing some mild intestinal issues. We recognized that it was most likely the water but we were literally in the middle of nowhere so we couldn’t run to the grocery store for several gallons of water.
We completed our stay by drinking the individually bottled water we keep on hand. We also drank our supply of Gatorade and boiled some water for coffee and ice. We chalked this first experience up to being near the border and once our stomachs were back to normal we went back to drinking the local water with a few additional precautions.
We started buying several gallons of water for insurance any time we were heading out into the boonies. We also kept a close watch for symptoms and would switch to bottled water at the drop of a hat if we suspected a problem. And we made a point of trying to fill our tank with municipally treated water when available.
We continued on this way for most of the year drinking local water about 75% of the time. That is until we reached southern California. We got pretty sick while we were in Palm Springs and spent the better part of a week under the weather.
We thought maybe it was something else because we were pretty sure that the campground had treated water. We could see the municipal water tower from our site. But we switched to bottled water to be safe and started feeling somewhat better. Jim finally convinced me to use bottled water even to brush my teeth (like we do in Mexico!) and we finally got over it.
Before we left I went by the camp’s guard shack and asked if the campground’s water was treated water. It turns out that half the campground, the 50 amp side that I presume is newer, is on a municipal water source. The 30 amp side was on a well. The guard reassured me that it was tested regularly and safe to drink.
From my experience, just because a water source meets the minimal guidelines for safety, it doesn’t mean that everything in it is going to agree with your gut. There is also the issue that bacteria can live in the pipes. If the water is chlorinated then those pipes are constantly sanitized. With well water they are not! So they may have tested the water at its source but that does not mean that by the time it got to my campsite it was safe.
After that experience, we chose to buy bottled water for some time. We decided the cost just wasn’t worth losing a week to a stomach bug. I appeased my consumer’s guilt by buying gallon jugs and refilling them about three times at vending machines before being very particular about making sure they got to a recycling center.
In the southwest it seemed there was a bottle refilling station on practically every corner. I’m sure this is indicative of how big an issue they have getting safe water from their pipes. In the east it has been a little harder to find them but most every Walmart has one inside the store. I have paid from 25 up to 37 cents per gallon for refills.
I am on the lookout for a reusable container that would hold a gallon of water. But the gallon water jugs work really well in my little frig and I haven’t found another option that will fit, let alone hold up to travel. If you know of a better solution please share.
Now that we are on the east coast we have started cautiously trusting local water again and so far have not experienced any issues. When we do return to the southwest we won’t take any chances. We will likely buy all our water when we are in west Texas or southern Arizona and California.
Our motto is “better safe than sorry” when it comes to drinking water. We have to put our health first and our concerns about cost and the environment second.