Thursday, January 24, 2008

Introduction To RV Water

My name is Jim Worden and I own a small business called Cove Systems, Inc. in Sevierville Tennessee. We manufacture and sell water filtration systems for recreational vehicles, marine, aviation and home use. This little business grew out of our camping experiences over the past 25 years. My wife and I are avid RV owners and spend as much time as we can in our motor home, enjoying the vagabond lifestyle. We started camping as a way to have quality time with our kids when they were young. Although our children are grown and gone now, RVing is still a big part of our life.

Along the way, I became interested in the subject of good, clean water. There were times that the water available at various parks and campgrounds was not very good. We handled the problem by purchasing and using bottled water. Then I found out that bottled water was maybe not as good as we had assumed. This created a dilemma and set me on the path to find a way of processing our own water. After many years of research and finally getting a better understanding of what I was facing, we developed a system that really works. The same technology was then incorporated in systems for marine, aviation and home use. The following articles were written with a view toward recreational vehicles but they also apply to our other systems because we use the same filter media for all of our filters.

I will be posting a series of articles on fresh water issues on this blog. My hope is that you will find these articles interesting and helpful. The series will consist of four articles.

Article 1. What is water and why is it important?
Article 2. Bottled water. What’s all the hype?
Article 3. Water contaminants – brief discussion and overview.
Article 4. Different methods and suggestions for cleaning water.
Let’s start out with “Who The Heck Is Jim Worden and what makes him Think he is so smart”. Thank You; Thank You…That’s a good question. I have been studying water issues for several years now, primarily for my own purposes. I love to tinker with things and am always looking for a better mousetrap. Our first full-size motor home was a Winnebago we bought in 1983. Up until then we tent camped or used our conversion van. I didn’t have a clue about the problems and dangers of careless management of the fresh water system. We relied on bottled water until the Winnebago came along. When we started using the on-board tank water, our headaches began. Algae, bacteria, iron and other contaminants turned us back to bottled water. Since then I have learned a lot. Today, the water in our RV is excellent, thanks to our filtration system and a small amount of water system maintenance using procedures we developed.

My mind has a natural tendency to drift to the technical side of about any problem I encounter. I have a technical background so I like to look at the “nuts and bolts” of how things work. I originally thought the process to remove harmful contaminants and keep the RV water supply system clean had to be simple. Boy, was I ever wrong! As I found out the hard way, keeping the RV water system clean and safe does require a certain level of care. I also came to realize that as we traveled around the country the quality of available water we encountered varied a lot. There is an amazing amount of science and technology available that directly relates to this subject. Unfortunately, not much of it has found its way into the RV field. My goal is to educate those that have an interest and concern for clean, safe water.

Over the years I have had the good fortune to meet some very smart people. Many of them are scientists in such fields as microbiology and chemistry. I have never hesitated in picking their brain on fresh water issues. From this has come a fairly significant knowledge base for addressing the very real issues you and I face every day in our RV’s.

So, over the course of the next few articles we are going to talk about water, your RV and how to keep you safe. Keep in mind that the information presented is based on my own experience, research and views. There may be other and possibly better ways to do things. What I present to you comes from many years of study and trial and error. The first article will examine water, what it is, where it comes from and the current condition of our water here in the United States. From there we will discuss in the following articles what contaminants you might encounter and various methods to remove or control these contaminants. We will also post methods and procedures for cleaning and maintaining the fresh water system found on most RV’s.

The postings to follow are going to be brief and to the point. I invite you to submit comments or questions as we proceed. I can be contacted at I always enjoy hearing from fellow RVers. You may want to cruise through our website, located at

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Hi and welcome to the first article for our blog. We are happy that you have taken the time to visit with us. The focus of this blog is to offer you a small amount of knowledge related to handling and processing water for your RV. There are close to 9 million RV’s in use in the United States today. Obviously, we are a people that enjoy camping and the Great Outdoors. Some folks enjoy camping with their families in a small pop-up or trailer while others may enjoy camping in the air-conditioned comfort of a large motor home. The common factor is our fun and enjoyment of spending time with family and friends while campfire smoke blows in our face and bugs dive-bomb us. We must be nuts! But, there we are, having a ball.

One subject common to all that RV is water. We can find water in just about all of the camping places we visit. We need water to drink, bathe, clean and cook. Many folks rely on bottled water for consumption as an alternative to using on-board water or available campsite water.

As you read these articles, my hope is that you gain a good working knowledge of the subject and will be better advised to safeguard yourself from water-borne contaminants. Where possible I will provide you with web links to further explore the subject matter in more detail. While it is true that I am in the business of manufacturing water filter systems for RV use, my focus is and will continue to be educating my fellow RVers.

Water is the cornerstone of life. Without water, there would be no life as we know it on our little blue marble. Although I have invested many years in studying water, I find that the more I learn, the less I seem to know. On the surface, water would appear to be a simple chemical compound, not worthy of more than a passing glance. People tend to take water for granted, until something goes wrong. We folks that have the good fortune to live in the United States are blessed with generally good water. Other parts of the world are not so fortunate.

So, let’s start right from the beginning. What is water and why is it important to us? Water is basically composed of just two elements – hydrogen and oxygen. It is the only chemical compound that can be found in three forms - liquid, solid (ice) and gaseous. This simple and yet complex substance is the singular most important element on earth other than the air we breathe. Water is the giver of life, without which we would not be here. We can survive for many days without food but only hours without water. states, We now know the fluids that flow through our body are what create our level of well being. The human body is a water machine, designed to run primarily on water and minerals. By weight our body is about 72% water, another 8% is a combination of chemical compounds and the remaining 20% is bone and solid tissue. From the most basic standpoint it is a common sense equation, if we are made up of 72% plain water, then naturally the quality of the water we consume will have a very dramatic impact on our overall state of health. Every healing and life giving process that happens in our body happens through Water!”

The amount of water that exists on earth today is the same amount that was here when our planet was formed, over 4 billion years ago. Various estimates for total water on this planet range up to 344 million cubic miles. Only one percent of this water is available for us to consume. Put another way, if all the water on earth was represented by one gallon, we would have just one tablespoonful to drink.

We live in a closed eco-system on our little planet. Our water is recycled over and over again. There is no “new” water and a dinosaur could have last consumed the water you drink today. This reclaiming process functions as a huge filter that removes many of the contaminants and returns water to its basic chemical composition, H2O…. that is, for the most part. Today there are so many different contaminants, many of which are man made, our eco-system is really stressed in trying to remove them. When water arrives at your tap, it can contain some foul and even harmful constituents. Our body, being the amazing organism it is, then becomes a water filter. Dependant on ones immune system and general physical health, the consumed contaminants may pass through our bodies unnoticed or possibly make us sick.

Some contaminants actually collect in our body without notice, until they reach a lethal level. This includes metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. One nasty chemical we all are exposed to is chlorine. It is in all of our municipal water, mandated by the federal government. Yes, it is important because chlorine kills many biological contaminants. BUT, it should also be noted that many in the scientific community have identified chlorine as a cancer-causing element along with having a negative effect on our general health. Take a look at this article published by DR. Zolton Rona, MD -

So, what we have to do to minimize the danger lurking in our water is remove the contaminants including chlorine. This is a formidable task. It is even more difficult for the RVer because every time we hook up to a new water supply, we may face a new combination of contaminants. For those of you that think you are “beating the system” by using bottled water, you are in for a big surprise. We will cover that issue in the next article. In the third article we will discuss the different types of contaminants and where they come from. The article after that will concentrate on how we can process water to render it as safe and palatable as possible. Allow me to leave you with just one thought to ponder. You need to take charge of the water you use, whether at home or on the road. Do not rely on the existing assumption that all water is safe. That is simply not true. Every year there are millions of cases of illness due to contaminated water reported in this country. It is safe to assume that an even larger number goes unreported (ever had the “Outhouse Trots” or upset stomach and didn’t know why?)

In future issues I also want to devote some time to the maintenance and use of the RV fresh water system. We will be covering a lot of ground on this blog, all focused on keeping you as safe as possible. In the mean time, I invite you to cruise through our website at There you will find a lot of good information and technical data relating to RV water issues. Feel free to email me at if you have questions or need further information. See you in the next issue.

Cheers and Happy Trails.

Jim Worden

Friday, January 18, 2008


In this article we are going to look at an issue I get a little wound up about. The subject matter is bottled water. Let me first state that I have no issue with anybody being successful, even the big bottle water companies. What I do take issue with is being conned. P.T. Barnum once said “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.” In my opinion we are being fooled when it comes to the marketing of bottled water.

To get started with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, take a look at this web site- It is supposed to be funny but I refer to this as “kidding on the square.” Bottled water has become a huge part of our lives in recent years. When we travel in our motorhome I see a lot of folks carrying bottled water with them. We used to do the same thing. We would run to the store and purchase several gallons of water before each trip. We still carry bottled water, but we filter and bottle our own now. It takes a few minutes to do it right but the cost is almost zero. I know where the water comes from and that it is fresh and very high quality.

There was a time not long ago when bottled water didn’t exist. When the bottled water industry first started, companies such as Pepsi-Cola and Coke saw a huge potential. We, the buying public, found bottled water convenient and with very little urging convinced ourselves that buying and drinking water in a bottle was good for us. I agree that it is convenient and there is nothing better than an ice-cold drink of water on a hot summer afternoon. Well, maybe a bottle of beer but you know what I mean. The issue is the water we drink out of a bottle is generally no better than tap water with regard to purity and in some cases, worse. Yes, tap water in general can be objectionable due to residual chlorine. Regionally, you may find high sulfur levels or some other contaminant that is offensive. A large number of RV parks get their water from private wells or out of rivers and may not process their water optimally, possibly rendering it distasteful. Other parks are hooked up to municipal water and you will be faced with residual chlorine. But the technology is available today that will process just about any source water by removing or greatly reducing aesthetic and harmful contaminants whether you get water from a private or municipal supply. The cost to do this is but a small percentage of the investment in bottled water.

Give this some thought. Go into any convenience store and check the price for a liter of soda. It may cost around a dollar. Now check the price for a 16-ounce bottle of water from the same bottling company. What’s that? The water is priced at $1.59? But the less expensive soda is made with water and it has to be as good as the plain bottled water, right? And the soda has flavoring and sweetener in it, an expense not required in the plain water. So what is the deal? This is a no brainer if you do the math.

There are approximately 33.8 ounces in a liter of soda. The retail price per ounce for the liter is 2.9 cents or $3.71 per gallon. A 16-ounce bottle of water at $1.59 works out to 9.9 cents per ounce or $12.67 a gallon. Which item would you rather sell? These numbers will vary from place to place but you get the idea. Enough said.

Now these companies want us to believe that their bottled water is healthy for us and comes from pristine mountain springs or some such rubbish. Just look at the label on most bottles of water. Water falls, mountain vistas, bubbles, deer or other scenes all to subliminally send you the message that this water comes straight from Mother Nature, herself. In reality that water probably comes from the same sources as your tap water. Rivers, lakes, wells and an estimated 40 percent of bottled water comes right out of the municipal water tap at the bottling plant. Boy, are we being taken! Take a look at

Here is another point to ponder. The water we get from the tap is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. This organization has a lot of rules and regulations and they inspect our public water processing facilities frequently. The operators of these public plants have to be licensed. Product testing is accomplished several times a day. Reports of their water quality have to be routinely filed with the EPA. There is a lot of work that goes into your tap water. Now here is the interesting twist. The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water. Bottled water is produced under a set of rules that the bottled water industry prepared. They have strong lobby presence at both the state and federal level and successfully pushed their agenda through. The rules are entirely different. Little or no testing, no licensing for plant operators and almost non-existent enforcement of the few rules bottlers do have. Did you know that there is no law restricting the amount of some contaminants like fecal matter in bottled water? The bottlers are pretty much free to do what they want. It all has to do with money and profit. You know as well as I do that this goes on in many industries. Money is a powerful motivator. Your health and well-being are not important.

There is an organization called the Natural Resources Defense Council that you may want to check out. They are a watchdog group and boy do they have a lot to say about the water we drink. On their website look for the Executive Summary and take a hard look at Chapter 4. Appendix A is a list of bottled water test results and in Table 1 you will find a side-by-side comparison of the EPA and FDA rules. Of course, the rest of the website is interesting too.

The perfect water will consist of hydrogen and oxygen and have an optimum level of minerals that our bodies require. The perfect water will be at a PH of between 6.5 and 8.5. This water will be crystal clear to very light blue and present a pleasant taste. Unfortunately our water will always be less than perfect. So, we have to do what we can to render it as safe as possible. There are processes and filtering techniques that do work and we will talk about these options in article four of this series.

In the mean time, if you still feel bottled water makes sense, here is a trick you can use to raise the bar a little. Buy bottled water that is not produced in the state you make the purchase. Look at the label. If you are in Virginia, look for water that is bottled someplace other than Virginia. The reason is that in-state water is bottled under that states bottling rules (some states now have some kind of policy on bottled water but may not have the funds to monitor bottled water production. In Texas, for instance, there are around 300 water bottlers. The state has just one dedicated inspector to oversee them.) In-state bottled water is generally exempt from federal rules. If that same water is shipped across state lines, it has to have been processed under both state and federal rules. Now this is not going to make it that much better in view of the FDA’s weak stand, but any reduction of exposure to contaminants is good. Some states have developed significantly better rules for bottled water than the federal government.

Well, if bottled water is not the answer, what is? When we get to the end of this series, you will have the knowledge and the ability to process and enjoy good tasting and healthy water, no matter where you wander. In the next article (number three) we will look at the different categories of contaminants. In article 4 we will review the many different ways to reduce or eliminate these contaminants while on the road. Please feel free to contact me via email at Oh, one last thought. If you are concerned about the water at home, review the website found at

Happy Trails - Jim

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Hello again……
This is the third article in this series on recreational vehicle fresh water management. In this article we are going to explore the more common contaminants that may be found in our water. If I were to do this article correctly, it would be the size of a Tom Clancy novel. So, we will look at the highlights and provide you with web links to drill down more deeply if you so desire. Now, I do not want to scare you with the following. I do want to get your attention. So, here goes.

Contaminants come in basically two forms; particulate and dissolved. Some contaminants in the particulate column are living organisms, such as bacteria, virus, protozoa, algae, fungus and worms. Soluble or dissolved compounds may be present such as chlorine, trihalomethanes, nitrates, nitrites, heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic) and several other substances found in industrial waste. The list of known contaminants is very long and growing every day. A list along with the maximum allowable level of contamination may be found at EPA contaminants. Keep in mind that this list only applies to public water sources. Bottled water does not have to meet the EPA requirements.

Something we are going to talk about in this article is particle size. Particles are measured in microns. One micron is equal to 0.00003937 inches or in scientific notation 1x10-6. Expressed another way, one inch equals 25,400 microns. When we talk about a water filter’s ability to remove particulates, it is a function of the “pass-no pass” ability of the filter media. If the filter media is rated at 5 microns, any particle smaller than that will pass.

Some harmful contaminants may affect us immediately while others are insidious and can slowly accumulate in our body to a toxic level. Some contaminants are readily noticeable such as hydrogen sulfide, a bacteria supported reaction in the water heater that throws off a strong sulphur smell. It is important to remember that water may look, taste and smell okay. That does not mean it is safe. None of the contaminants are visible to the eye. The larger particles, such as Cryptosporidium, are generally 4 to 10 microns in size. Virus particles can be as small as .0004 microns. Most other particulates fall between these sizes. The smallest particle the normal human eye can see is about 50 microns.

An obvious contaminant in water is turbidity or cloudiness caused by particulates. Although turbidity in itself is generally benign, it is distasteful and its presence may indicate unacceptable levels of harmful contaminants. Turbidity is measurable as expressed in Nephelolometric Turbidity Units (NTU). The water picks up turbidity, or dirt, as it moves through the soil and rocks and eventually into the ground water supply. It becomes visible at levels above 5 NTU’s. The EPA maximum allowable level of turbidity is 1.0 NTU for our public water supplies. Turbidity can be reduced or removed by filtration. The prefilter in our RVF-1 system typically reduces turbidity to .01 NTU or lower.

A big concern and probably the most commonly found water contaminant are bacteria. Believe it or not, bacteria were the first life forms on earth. Bacteria are single cell critters that do not have a nucleus. Here is an interesting fact to ponder - there are approximately ten times more bacteria cells than human cells in the human body.

Some bacteria are good for us and live in our digestive system. These good bacteria produce vitamins and amino acids. Bacteria also aid digestion by breaking down consumed food into simple sugars and other nutrients. These good bacteria also crowd out bad bacteria as they enter our body. There is a relatively new wave of science heralding the virtues of these good bacteria that you may already know about. An interesting article on good bacteria can be found at probiotics. Bad strains of bacteria can cause illnesses like Cholera and Typhoid Fever, Legionellosis, Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Leprosy and the Bubonic Plague. Other strains cause Staph and Strep infections. My wife just went through a bad bout of Cellulitus, caused by Staphylococcus.

Bacteria particles range in size from about 1 to 10 microns. Bacteria may be neutralized with chlorine or iodine. Boiling water before use also is effective. It is also possible to remove them with an appropriately sized filter. Laboratory tests we conducted on the RVF-1 system resulted in 100 percent removal of the live E-coli test bacteria. Generally speaking, a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics. New strains of bacteria are emerging that appear to be resistant to this treatment, however. A website that offers a further look at various bacteria can be found here.

Virus is the smallest of the pathogens. The word “virus” comes from Latin and means poison. Characteristically, virus requires a host to grow. The viral organism will invade a host cell, then use the host for nourishment and reproductive purposes. It is not unusual to find viral organisms riding along with bacteria. Viruses cause hepatitis, meningitis, poliomyelitis, chicken pox, the common cold, flu, AIDS, pneumonia and many other illnesses. These pathogens generally range in size from .0004 to 0.2 microns. Unlike other infectious organisms, virus can sometimes remain viable forever, even dried or frozen. Although difficult, virus can be removed or significantly reduced from water by filtration. In our laboratory test program of the RVF-1 system we used a large concentration of Hepititus A. The system was able to remove 99.99 percent of these extremely small particles. Virus may be neutralized using chemical agents such as chlorine. Medically, viral infections are very hard to treat. The best preventative is removal from our food and water.

Algae and diatoms are common contaminants that, with some exception, are single-cell plants. These little organisms live in mostly stagnant water and can group into colonies. The algae we hear about most often is Blue-Green or Cyanobacteria. In warm, undisturbed surface water, algae may form blooms that become visually apparent. All algae are objectionable in our drinking water. Some algae produce toxins that can pose a health risk. Nervous system disorders, liver damage, skin problems, ear, nose and throat irritation, inflammation of the respiratory system and death are complications of algal exposure. Chlorination is an effective tool for neutralizing algae. Filtration is also very effective.

Now to what I refer to as "THE BUGS". This group of contaminants includes Protozoa such as Cryptosporidia and Giardia. There are also Amoeba, worms and many other little bugs in this group that will make us sick. The word “protozoa” means “little animal”. There are at least 60,000 different forms of these microscopic, ubiquitous beasts. Like bacteria, some are friendly toward humans while others are not.

The most common form of protozoan transmission is through the feces of infected animals. Entry into the human body is through ingestion or inhalation. Many of these animals enter our body in an oocyst stage (thick walled egg sac). Once inside the body, these critters crawl out of the egg sac and start doing their dirty work. Not long ago, 400,000 people were infected with Cryptosporidium in Wisconsin. 100 of these folks died. Every year there are reports of outbreaks in the United States. As recent as September, 2007 there was an outbreak of Crypto in the western United States, extending from the southern Rockies to Montana and Idaho.

These bugs usually measure around 4 to 10 microns in size and can be removed through filtration. Chemical treatment is not very effective in killing some in this group of pathogens because of the protection they get from the tough egg sac. Boiling water will usually neutralize them, but does not remove their bodies. So, we wind up with a little more protein in our diet. Want to see what some of these bugs look like? Check this out- prime water. Click on the “micro organisms” button at the bottom of the page.

Soluble contaminants can be found in all of our drinking water. These contaminants may include chlorine (a carcinogen), heavy metals, nitrates, nitrites, and trihalomethanes. Many solubles fall into a class called Volatile Organic Chemicals, such as benzene, styrene and trichlorethylene. Another class of concern is inorganic chemicals including asbestos, cyanide and selenium. Yet another group of chemicals is synthetic organic chemicals that includes alachlor, atrazine and lindane. Solubles cannot be removed from water through screening or mechanical filtration. Boiling will generally not remove them. The most effective way to deal with solubles is with carbon filtration. Carbon has the unique ability to capture solubles through a process called adsorption. More on this in the next article.

It is difficult to reliably test for many contaminants with any degree of accuracy. You can test today and find nothing. Test again in a few days and find the water contaminated. That is why our public water systems are tested frequently every day. For obvious reasons, we should consider any water we use as contaminated. If we accept that premise, we can respond to it by cleaning our water before we consume it.

For a very well done synopsis and further detail on water contaminants, go to this website The left side column has links to some really interesting reading. Now the publisher of this website sells reverse osmosis (R.O.) equipment, so ignore the sales hype. We will review R.O. and other processes in the next article.

I have not covered the foregoing in any depth. My goal is to provide you with a little knowledge that may peak your interest enough to further explore the issues. There is an abundance of information on the Internet and in our libraries. I encourage you to take some time to study this subject further. It is not all doom and gloom and my intent is not to malign our water supply. As stated previously our water in America is generally okay. But some knowledge of what can be lurking in your water may give you an advantage in combating water-borne contaminants, whether they are only aesthetic or real health risks. Keep in mind that, according to data tracked by the government, up to 7 million cases of water-borne illness are reported every year here in the United States.

In the next article we will discuss the more popular techniques to clean water. As before, please feel free to email me at Until the next time…….

Happy Trails,

Jim Worden

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Greetings Bloggers-
In the previous 3 articles we covered a lot of ground. I know that the information provided so far has not been in that much detail and for that I apologize. My hope is you have taken the time to review the links provided and maybe have done a little research on your own. This fourth article in the series will focus on the heart of our discussions so far. That is, how can we remove or neutralize unwanted contaminants. We know that there are many contaminants that may be found in water. We also know that these contaminants can change from day to day and from location to location. Our goal is to be able to process water from normally available sources and have aesthetically pleasing water that is also safe. So, let’s get started.

There is a huge array of water filters available to us today. Some are very small while others may require a crane to move. There are systems that fit under the sink, gravity filters that set on a kitchen counter, systems that connect to a faucet and others that can be placed on a showerhead. Other configurations are designed to be used as an entry filter for all of the water entering the RV. Filters are made from glass, membranes, ceramic, paper, sand, charcoal or carbon and other media. There are thousands of filters on the market produced by hundreds of companies. Some processing methods are good while others are not. It is not possible to cover each and every potential method or system in this short article. For the most part, there are just a handful of processes that are worth a hoot. One of the very few we have researched and found to do a decent job is produced by Doulton, USA. I consider Doulton my main competition. Their filters are produced using high quality materials and they back up their claims with laboratory test reports. Very few companies are willing to share lab results, if they even have any.

You may see reference in some advertising to the National Sanitation Foundation, or NSF. The NSF is a Not-For-Profit testing laboratory similar to Underwriters Laboratory. It has become the authority for many consumer products, including water processing and filtration. If a product passes their tests, they will allow the manufacturer to state they are “NSF Tested”. It is a very expensive program that not all water processing system producers can or will invest in. The test protocols developed by NSF are used by many other test facilities, leading to statements like “Tested To NSF Standard 42” or something along that line. The following is a synopsis of two test protocols we are interested in.

NSF Standard 42

Test standard for aesthetic claims such as color, taste and odor. Also tests for particulate matter. One of the more important test parameters is for reduction of chlorine and chlorination byproducts such as trihalomethanes that are known carcinogens. There are three different classes of effectiveness for chlorine reduction. They are:

Class one - Reduces chlorine by 75 - 100%.
Class Two - Reduces chlorine by 50 - 74%
Class three - Reduces chlorine by 25 - 49%

Water may appear cloudy at times, caused by particulates. NSF Standard 42 tests for the reduction of particulates by particle size. The filter media can then be ranked. The categories are:

Class One - 0.5 – 1.0 microns
Class Two - 1 – 5 microns
Class Three - 5 – 15 microns
Class Four - 15 – 30 microns
Class Five - 30 – 50 microns
Class Six – Larger than 50 microns

NSF Standard 53

This test standard applies to those contaminants that are considered as health hazards. This includes pathogens (bacteria, virus, cysts), and heavy metals such as lead. Standard 53 also tests for Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s), Total trihalomethanes (TTHM’s), turbidity and several chemicals found in agricultural or industrial applications.

Other NSF Test Standards of Interest

There are NSF test protocols for ultraviolet systems (Standard 55), reverse osmosis (Standard 58) and distillation (Standard 62), among others. You will find detailed information regarding these test protocols and many others on the NSF website.

The better filter producers will publish lab reports indicating the effectiveness of their product. Our system was tested by a certified test facility and we meet the requirements of Standard 42 for chlorine Class One and particulate Class One. We also exceed the requirements for Standard 53 for the contaminants we tested for. Many companies that market some type of water filter for RV use employ slick advertising that can be misleading. I see a lot of statements used like “Our Filter System Addresses the Following Concerns..” then they display a list of contaminants. Now, what does that mean? Do these contaminants have a mailing address? Darned if I know, but to address something does not indicate to me whether the processed water is any safer or better than raw water. Another marketing approach is to use words like “reduces” this or that. There is no indication how much of a reduction may take place. Even an old handkerchief will reduce or remove some contaminants. Sorry, got distracted there for a minute but misleading advertising really irritates me.

As stated previously, when you travel in your RV you may be faced with very inconsistent source water. Every time you hook up to a new water supply you should expect the water chemistry to be different. It is always a good idea to ask when checking in, where the park water comes from. Is it municipal or from a private source. You may also ask what testing has been done, when it was done and what the results were. The park should be happy to provide this information. These questions may not give you much assurance that the water is good or bad at that moment. It may indicate the level of concern the park management has. Let me state once again that potable water we consume here in the United States is generally safe. However, as my mother used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In any event, let’s talk about what processes are available. There are essentially two ways of interest to us as applied to RV use. They are point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE). POU means filtering water inside the RV, probably via a third faucet at the kitchen sink from a filter unit under the counter. This may serve your purpose, I don’t know. The best method we believe is point-of-entry, where all of the water coming in to the RV is filtered. Then we can have good water at all of the outlets. Bathing or brushing your teeth with unfiltered water is not good. Unfiltered water can also damage the valves, plumbing and appliances within the RV.

Let’s back up a little and define what we want to do with our water. Our goal is to be able to have water in our RV that is consistently high quality without much regard for the actual source. We have found that due to the peculiarities of filter capabilities there is a minimum of two steps required to process water for consumption. We want to 1) clean the water of particulates and debris by pre-filtering, and then 2) purify it by removing soluble contaminants via a final or polish filter.

Generally speaking, it is difficult to accomplish both steps using a single filter. Filter media designed to remove particulates are not very effective in removing solubles. Conversely, a media that is good at removing solubles has limited ability to remove particles because the media will become clogged in a short period of time. In the near future it may be possible to accomplish this two-step process using just one filter. We are presently testing a single filter that shows great promise in performing both steps. The technology for this unit is just coming to the market. We hope to have this new technology lab tested very soon. At the other end of the spectrum I have seen arrangements using up to five separate filters, each one designed to remove specific types of contaminants.

Keep in mind that we need a flow rate of approximately 2.5 gallons per minute to service the RV. Flow restriction has to be part of the equation. Flow rate is reduced proportional to the level of restriction we impose in the filtering process. The tighter the filter, the less throughput it allows. So, we have to balance our flow requirements to the amount of work we want the filtering process to do. If you presently use a filtration system and the water flow out of it is as high as the flow rate going in, you are probably not getting much filtering.

So first we need to clean the source water by pre-filtering it. By cleaning I mean removing the particulates that can sometimes make water cloudy. Cloudiness is caused primarily by dirt, silt and debris particles. For our discussion here we will refer to this condition as TURBITY. Turbidity is measurable and, as discussed in a previous article, is expressed in Nephelolometric Turbidity Units or NTU’s. The EPA limit for municipal water turbidity is 1.0 NTU. The technology in our pre-filter typically reduces turbidity to .01 NTU. This removal process will also trap pathogens that may be present. The main reason we want to clean the water first is to protect the second or final filter from clogging. A proper pre-filter should have a huge dirt holding capacity. Most filters appropriate for final filtration have very little ability to hold particulates.

Cleaning or pre-filtering our water is relatively simple. A good quality sediment filter that will remove particles down to 1.0 micron or less is a good starting point. Most filters on the market are flow restrictive at this pore size. Filtering technology is available today that will remove particulates as small as DNA. Our pre-filter has this technology. This is very high-tech stuff and of course there is a price to pay for it. Our pre-filter is manufactured to our specifications and a technical discussion of the incorporated technology can be found here. This prefiltering step is essential for just about any purification process you may choose. For the purposes of this article, purification means the removal of other undesirable elements such as harmful chemicals, metals and other soluble constituents the cleaning process cannot remove.

The second step, purification, is a topic that has led to many discussions over the years. Some folks swear that reverse osmosis (RO) is the only way to purify water. I agree that it can be effective in removing particulates but does little to remove solubles. Many folks do not understand that RO cannot remove soluble contaminants. RO is also slow and wastes a lot of water for back flushing. Boiling can be good and bad. It will kill the living organisms but at the same time it concentrates other contaminants. Also, I personally have an aversion to ingesting any little dead bodies that may be present.

Distillation is a good purification process and will remove many contaminants but where in the world can you store a boiler and condenser in an RV? Distillation is slow and uses a lot of energy. There is also a lot of controversy about the health effects of drinking distilled water. Go to Distilled water for more information on this.

Chemical treatment like chlorination or iodine may kill some water-borne living organisms but does not remove the dead bodies and has no effect on soluble contaminants. Chemical treatment also has little effect on pathogens that have a protective shell such as Cryptosporidium.

Ultra Violet or UV is yet another treatment method. Water is passed through a chamber that has a special UV light bulb. This process kills some organisms with high doses of radiation. This method requires electricity and a fairly high maintenance schedule. It also is not capable of removing any contaminant.
Another treatment process that has become popular is Kinetic Degradation Fluxion, or KDF. This patented process has the potential to remove or control many contaminants through a molecule exchange principal. KDF is a copper-zinc compound that uses redox (oxidation/reduction) to remove or modify soluble contaminants like chlorine, hydrogen sulfide and heavy metals from water. The process also has a mild anti-bacterial, algaecitic, and fungicitic effect and may reduce the accumulation of lime scale. KDF is a granular substance that has little effect on pathogens that travel in an oocyst stage.
In our research we determined that the best way to purify water was by using a second or polish filter made with activated carbon. Carbon has some very interesting properties that seem to be tailor made for filtering water. When properly manufactured, it displays very high adsorptive properties making it perfect for removing soluble contaminants from water, such as organic chemicals (especially those that are responsible for odor, color and taste) along with other organics like chromium, arsenic, mercury, lead, chlorine and chlorination byproducts (Trihalomethanes, a family of known carcinogens) and a host of other constituents that are bad for us. The base carbon used is primarily derived from coal, peanut shells or coconut husk. The way it is made is the raw material is heated to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen and “cooked.” To activate the carbon, specialized oxidizing gas is then forced through the carbon at very high temperatures. Other additives may be used enhance the carbons ability to remove specific contaminants such as lead.

One gram of activated carbon can present a surface area equivalent to two tennis courts in size. That is a lot of filtering surface. Many of the less expensive carbon filters are nothing but a cellulose sheet that has been impregnated with a small amount of carbon dust. The better carbon filters are made with compressed carbon and are solid. It stands to reason that the more carbon in the filter, the better.

Many carbon filters are made with granulated activated carbon (GAC). Although this process is popular, GAC is loose within a container and has a bad habit of “channeling” during the filtration process. This channeling allows water to flow through without coming into contact with the carbon, greatly reducing efficiency.

To be effective, the carbon has to be in a brick or solid form and have very small pores that forces contact with the water. There are basically two ways to produce a solid brick filter. Some manufacturers mold the carbon dust, making one filter at a time. A binder is added to the dust to help hold it together. The binder, or glue, reduces the total exposed surface area, reducing performance. It is also difficult to control pore size in the molding process. Probably the most optimum carbon filter is made through an extrusion process. Fine carbon dust is forced through a forming die at extremely high pressure, producing a continuous hollow-core “rod” of solid carbon (much like aluminum is extruded). This rod is very dense and structurally strong. The rod is then cut to whatever length is needed and incorporated into the filter. This process insures consistent density throughout the filter, allows the greatest surface area and, if done properly, controls pore size. A well-designed extruded carbon filter can offer a pore size down to 0.5 microns or less. An informative web site on extruded, activated carbon can be found here. Our final filter is produced to our specifications using the extrusion process.

One major drawback to carbon is its limited ability to hold dirt and other contaminants. There is no room to hold dirt due to density. Using a carbon filter without properly pre-filtering the water will lead to premature clogging. There is another drawback to carbon that you may have heard about. Carbon is organic and bacteria love it. As the filter collects debris and contaminants it becomes a smorgasbord that bacteria can live on. Given an opportunity, bacteria will colonize and thrive within the carbon. So at some point this process may become counter-productive. The carbon will either become clogged with bacteria and debris or will breakdown and allow large amounts of contaminants to pass. To answer this problem, some manufacturers are now adding anti-bacterial components such as silver to the carbon to control this growth. There has not been much research into the long-term ramifications of silver additives, so I am somewhat skeptical. During our research we determined that a much better approach is to remove bacteria during the pre-filtering stage, therefore bacteria never have the chance to invade or colonize the carbon. Our RVF-1 system does just that.

We have not covered all of the potential methods to filter water. There is a lot of information on the Internet regarding these and other technologies if you care to investigate further. We spent years researching, talking about and testing various water process methods. I have been like a dog on a hunt looking for the best way to process our RV water. This series of articles gives you the essence of what I discovered.

So, there you have it. I have tried to not turn these articles into a sales campaign for our filters. My purpose has been to offer a small amount of information for you to consider and just maybe help keep you safe. I do invite you to review our website at for further information.

If you have any questions, let me know. I would very much like to hear from you. Whatever you are doing now or decide to do in the future about the water you use, remember that it is imperative you take control of the situation. Do not simply assume that the water you use is okay. That is like playing with bumblebees. And I can tell you for sure that when your first cup of coffee in the morning tastes like coffee, not dead fish, the day will be much better.

There is one more subject I want to discuss with you in the next and final article. That is taking care of the RV fresh water system and managing RV water. When you purchased your RV, the salesman probably said something like, “here’s where yah hook up the hose”, at which point he lowered his voice. Being a good salesperson, he or she offered no more information than that necessary to make the sale. So, we will review some simple steps we can take to keep the water system clean and free of contaminants. Oh yes, that chemical formula shown in the box at the beginning of this article is for methane gas. A substance that my wife has accused me of producing in great quantity. Happy Trails.

Jim Worden
Sevierville, Tennessee