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Home > Tips and Hints > Starting Out Index > More choices > Economical use of water > Collecting water

Collecting water when not staying at caravan parks

Most travellers find they can easily fill tanks with adequate supplies from conventional sources such as caravan parks and fuel service stations.  We need to refuel the tow vehicle far more often than we need to fill water tanks, and if needing to fill the tanks I always ask before getting fuel.  Not all water outlets are suitable for fitting a hose and they may be in a place where stopping to fill tanks would block the flow of traffic through the bowsers.  If you cannot find a suitable source, ask at the Visitor Information Centre or Shire office if there is anywhere you can obtain water to top up the tanks.  In some areas where water is scarce, there may not be anywhere suitable or there may be a fee for the water.  We were at a mechanic’s workshop in a New South Wales town getting our caravan brakes adjusted and needed water.  I asked the mechanic about a suitable place, and he thought about the nearby sports ground before saying “What am I thinking about? I have a tap here and you are welcome to fill up.”   For our growing listings of towns who have advised their water fill points for caravanners see here

Carry a food grade hose and always use your own hose.  Sometimes a garden hose that has been in the sun can taint the water.  Semi clear hoses can be obtained from hardware stores such as Bunnings.  It does not need to be a fully lined hose as water flowing through the hose will not pick up any taste from a regular food grade hose.  The higher quality lined hose is only recommended for places where water may remain in the hose for some time. 

There may be times when water must be collected from other sources such as rivers, streams, lakes or dams.  This can be transported by bucket, jerry can or water bladder, but to fill the latter you will need a pump. 

Travellers who remain in one place for any length of time where water on tap is not available will prefer to fill their tanks to enable regular use shower and taps.  My keeping it simple method of bringing water in a bucket instead of filling the tanks is more suited to sort term camping.  Regardless, it is not a good idea to risk putting dirty or contaminated water into your tanks so those needing to do so use quality filters. 

Methods can vary from complex filtration systems to ensure good quality water in all tanks, under the tap filters so that only drinking and cooking water is filtered or using filter jugs to improving the drinking quality of small quantities of water. 

Filters can be purchased ranging from the simple replaceable cartridges to remove sediment, through to expensive filtration systems that remove bacteria, parasites and other contaminants.

Reverse osmosis systems produce water free of biological contaminants and virtually free of chemical contaminants. 

Water sterilising tablets such asthese will remove the risk of bacteria but will not help if chemicals are present.  You are also ingesting another chemical.  More expensive, but suitable for treating a lot of water safely is Micropur.  These are examples of products available. 

To fill tanks through a filter from an outside water source such as a stream or lake will require the pressure of a pump.  This can be a 12 volt pump similar to those used for delivering water to the caravan taps, with a suitable power source; either to caravan power system or another battery (even the tow vehicle battery) if pump is used near the water source.   Alternatively 12 volt shower or marine bilge pumps will suffice and these can be purchased economicially from camping stores and from eBay. 

If you are unable to pump the distance from the source, water can be brought in buckets to the caravan and pumped into the tanks through the filter from the bucket, however this work will ensure you are very water wise.

If you are lucky enough to experience good rain when needing water, after the dust has been rinsed off, the annex makes a good collector with water being caught in buckets and delivered into the tanks with a funnel, or a bucket with a hose attached to a hole in the bottom, secured high enough to conduct the water into the tanks.  Even without an annex, when the caravan has had a good rinse, look for the lowest corner and collect the stream of water with buckets.  Even if you only fill up water jerry cans and drinking bottles, this rain water can help tide you over until another water source is found.  Should any remaining dust find its way into your collected water, it will settle when left standing. 

What if you have no water?  Finding water in emergency situations.

In a worst case scenario of becoming stranded with no water or food, humans can survive weeks without food, but on last days if without water.  Many people have died in remote Australian areas over the years, including some tourists from overseas.

 

If you are in areas with large or flat granite rock outcrops, check for water collection points on the rocks.  Gnamma holes on granite rocks can sometimes hold water long after rain. 

 

Water can collect in the hollows of trees and insect or small bird activity may be an indication.

Look for animal tracks that converge as they may lead to a soak or water source.  Flocks of birds will also go to water sources. 

 

Dig in the sand of water courses; location of vegetation will be a guide to the most likely places. 

  

Emergency methods which may be suitable for gathering a small quantity to sustain life, depending on what is around:

 

Saline water or stagnant can be evaporated over a heat source and the steam condensed and collected.

 

Water can be drained from branches, roots or vines in some cases.  Milky sap is not suitable and may be poisonous or corrosive.  Bark of some trees such as paper bark (Melaleuca) can hold bubbles of water which can be extracted. 

 

Condensation can be collected by putting a plastic bag over a shrub with green leaves in sunlight and placed so the condensation can trickle into a container.  A condensation pit can be made filled with vegetation and a plastic sheet stretched across it with a container under it at the lowest point. 

 

The following survival website has ideas on water collection in extreme circumstances as well as what can be eaten in the bush.

 

http://www.survival.org.au/water.php

tn_jenny.jpg tn_granitewater.jpg
Pools of water on McDermid Rock; a large granite rock near Lake Johnston between Hyden and Norseman in Western Australia
This feral donkey has dug down in the sandy river bed to obtain water
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Transporting Water
Some people choose a campsite out of town for a period of time, during which it may be necessary to visit the town to collect more water as well as food supplies, and to empty the toilet cassette at the local dump point.  Depending on how often, the simple option of a few twenty litre plastic jerry cans will usually be sufficient, and these can be readily tipped into the tank fillers, using a funnel such as the fuel funnels sold by auto shops.  A water bladder is another option, and these can be square, or shaped to fit in front of the rear seats of a four wheel drive wagon.  If you choose a bladdder, you may well need a pump to deliver the water into your tanks. 
See also Economical Use of Water
 
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