User Tools

Site Tools

“You can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air.” – anonymous
“If you have water you have 1000 problems. If you don't have water you have 1 problem.” – anonymous
“…you really appreciate every drop of water if you have to schlep it.” – gcal1)
“The problem is water…” – Mark Watney, while stranded on Mars


Water sourcing and management is an important aspect of life on the road, since there are obviously no pipes bringing water in and out of your home on wheels. You will need to learn how to get water, how to store water, how to make sure it is clean and safe for your uses, and how to dispose of dirty water and sewage.

Water needs

Vandwellers living minimally (no showers or slip-n-slides) will typically require 1 gallon of potable water every day for drinking, and 1 additional gallon for cleaning, hygiene, cooking, etc.

Your needs will vary based on the ways you use water. The amount of water you need to store onboard will also vary based on how often you can resupply.

Water quality

Fresh water is water that has virtually no visible dirt and contaminates. It is sufficient for cleaning and bathing, but it may or may not be safe to drink. There may be microscopic contaminates.

  • “Potable” or Drinking water water is a subset of fresh water. It is clean and safe enough for human consumption. Municipal water supplies and water kiosks generally fall into this category, and commercially bottled water will always fall into this category.
  • “Non-potable” water is a subset of fresh water. It is not (or is not known) to be clean and safe enough for human consumption. Depending on the type and level of contaminates, it may be used for cooking, cleaning, or hygiene. Water for cooking has lower requirements for biological purity because the water is usually boiled during preparation. Water used for cleaning or external hygiene may be of even lower quality assuming one is careful not to ingest the water, or get it in open sores or mucous membranes.

Wastewater is water that has been contaminated during use.

  • Gray water is water that has been used for things like cleaning, bathing, dishwashing, or cooking. It has visible contaminates such as soap residue, dirt, or small food particles.
  • Black water is water that contains human waste or other hazardous material.

Obtaining fresh water

Conserving water

It is far easier to use less water than to haul, store, and dispose of gray water. Each subpage will have a conservation section.

Improving water quality

Sometimes it will be easier to obtain lower quality water and then improve it as required for your uses. For example, non-potable fresh water can be made potable through filtration and purification.

Filtration means removing particulate matter such as mud, sand, large plant cells such as algae and phytoplankton. It does not remove very small particles that can make you sick.

Purification means removing or killing the germs, bacteria, and other contaminates that can make you sick.

Not all water needs to be both filtered and purified. Some natural water from fast-flowing streams or springs may have very little particulate matter in it and be very clear already, and will only need purification if you're going to drink or cook with it.

As a general rule, filtered water is fine for showering or cleaning with. Purified water is needed for drinking and cooking.

Not all water can be made safe for use; it is not practical to purify water that is chemically or mineralogically tainted.

Gray water cannot generally be improved enough for reuse as non-potable water, but systems are available for certain uses, like a “recirculating shower” which filters and cleans used shower water for reuse. Black water cannot be treated (except by a commercial sewage treatment plant) and must be disposed of.

See this guide from the National Park Service about how to treat water. Also see REI's guide that wants to sell you stuff (But is still useful).

Disposing of wastewater

water/start.txt · Last modified: 2023/08/07 11:27 by mahkato