Fail to store drink­ing and fresh­wa­ter cor­rectly and you’re set­ting your­self up for a toxic time.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents - Text Kyle Kock Illustration Do­minic Wien­and

Many of us ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing sim­i­lar to Day Zero when we go camp­ing or head off the beaten track, es­pe­cially when we’re camp­ing at places where wa­ter qual­ity is un­cer­tain and our own wa­ter sup­ply needs to be stored for long pe­ri­ods of time. What­ever your rea­sons for needing to store wa­ter, par­tic­u­larly for drink­ing, it’s ab­so­lutely im­per­a­tive that you learn how to do this prop­erly. Whether sup­ply­ing your home or mak­ing sure you have enough for the month that you’ll be over-land­ing through Botswana, you need to un­der­stand these ba­sics.

How much wa­ter do we need?

Most of us have heard the para­ble that man can­not live on bread alone. Well, there’s some truth to that be­cause while the average hu­man could the­o­ret­i­cally last up to three weeks with­out the in­ges­tion of food, the same can­not be said for wa­ter. Wa­ter makes up more than 60% of our body’s com­po­si­tion and we won’t sur­vive more than a few days with­out it. A more ac­cu­rate ex­am­ple would be to more or less cal­cu­late how much wa­ter each one of us needs to sur­vive ac­cord­ing to how much we weigh – or mass we carry. That would mean around 30 ml per kg. In a 100 kg man, that’s 3 litres of wa­ter. Of course, that can never be an ex­act num­ber be­cause of the vari­ables out of our con­trol, but when we lose about 5% of our to­tal wa­ter, symp­toms of de­hy­dra­tion be­gin to show. That could be in the form of headaches, nose­bleeds, and dry and itchy skin, while con­tin­ued loss can lead to premature age­ing. Bear in mind that the average hu­man adult loses about 2.5 litres a day just by liv­ing, breath­ing and func­tion­ing healthily – and

that’s for con­sump­tion at a bare min­i­mum. The amount of wa­ter we need in­creases when we take into ac­count ba­sic hy­giene such as a daily shower and brush­ing your teeth.

Wa­ter does not ex­pire

We are all very de­pen­dent on this vi­tal re­source, and for­tu­nately for us we can de­pend on wa­ter be­ing drink­able for quite a long time. There are no con­crete stud­ies to show that wa­ter that’s been kept in stor­age for a long amount of time is un­safe for hu­man con­sump­tion. Any wa­ter that’s been ex­posed to air will start to ab­sorb carbon diox­ide, and a small per­cent­age of that wa­ter will turn into car­bonic acid, which in turn low­ers the over­all pH level of the wa­ter. A prac­ti­cal ex­am­ple would be when you pour your­self a glass of wa­ter when you go to bed at night. You might only con­sume half and when you wake up the next morn­ing, the wa­ter has a slightly acidic taste. Is it bad for you? Well, that de­pends on what the wa­ter is ex­posed to in your bed­room.

When does wa­ter be­come dan­ger­ous?

As we’ve just men­tioned, wa­ter doesn’t re­ally ex­pire, but its chem­i­cal makeup may be­come in­flu­enced by its sur­round­ings. Su­gars, pro­tein and mi­crobes are some of the cul­prits that can change the makeup. Ex­po­sure to these path­o­genic bac­te­ria, which like any other liv­ing thing needs wa­ter to sur­vive, will dras­ti­cally change the wa­ter’s com­po­si­tion. This is why you shouldn’t store wa­ter in a con­tainer that has been used for some­thing other than the stor­age of wa­ter. Con­tam­i­nated wa­ter isn’t just wa­ter that comes from a du­bi­ous source like a stag­nant dam. Con­tam­i­na­tion could come from the in­tro­duc­tion of bac­te­ria to wa­ter. That’s why you should never, for ex­am­ple, store wa­ter in a bot­tle that used to con­tain Oros con­cen­trate, Pow­er­ade or other su­gary drinks. If you live in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment the wa­ter that runs out of your taps will have been treated at a plant that sup­plies the city or town, with ad­di­tives to en­sure your wa­ter is as clean as pos­si­ble.

What’s the story with plas­tics?

You might have a say as to what kind of tank is fit­ted into your brand new car­a­van, or may even be able to retro­fit one that’s suit­able to your tastes, but the fresh­wa­ter tanks on your car­a­van, trailer or mo­torhome are un­likely to be fit­ted to the ex­te­rior where it can be ex­posed to the sun. The chances are higher that it’s tucked away safely un­der­neath or in cup­boards.

We fit our car­a­vans with poly­eth­yl­ene food-grade plas­tic for the pur­poses of wa­ter stor­age. We’ve been in the mar­ket since 1994 and haven’t had to re­place a sin­gle tank yet. The big­gest fac­tor from our point of view would be that the tanks aren’t ex­posed to di­rect sun­light and we avoid this by stor­ing the tanks in­side and un­der­neath car­a­vans. “We en­cour­age cus­tomers not to store the trailer with wa­ter in it, there­fore they would need to drain the tanks and store them as dry as pos­si­ble. “Peo­ple can also put con­tam­i­nated wa­ter in the tank, let’s say for ex­am­ple on a trip through Africa. If they want to use that tank for drink­ing wa­ter they would then need to flush it out suf­fi­ciently and then drop in some sort of chlo­ride so­lu­tion. Then again, some peo­ple only carry drink­ing wa­ter in their camp­ing fridges and keep wa­ter re­served for show­ers and wash­ing dishes in the trailer’s wa­ter tanks. “From a safety point of view we po­si­tion the tanks as low as pos­si­ble to cre­ate a low cen­tre of grav­ity as well as fit the tanks with baf­fles to keep the wa­ter from swish­ing around too much – all of which helps to make the trailer more sta­ble while tow­ing. >

The cheaper, dis­pos­able plas­tic that bot­tled wa­ter comes in tend to be haz­ardous. Some of these plas­tics re­lease a chem­i­cal called Bisphe­nol A (BPA) when heated, like when the bot­tle is ex­posed to di­rect sun­light or left in a closed ve­hi­cle. BPA has been shown to be a hor­mone dis­rupter, and there have been ef­forts to re­move this chem­i­cal in the pro­duc­tion of plas­tics that are meant to con­tain food or flu­ids meant for hu­man con­sump­tion. It would be far safer to pur­chase larger BPA-free wa­ter con­tain­ers that can be stored in safe con­di­tions. If you have no choice but to keep wa­ter in a con­tainer that was used to store some­thing else in, then make sure you ster­ilise it with a prod­uct like the Mil­ton ster­il­is­ing tablets used for baby bot­tles and paci­fiers. Type 2 and Type 4 plas­tics (deter­mined by a num­ber sur­rounded by a recycle sym­bol) don’t con­tain BPA or ph­tha­lates, another harm­ful chem­i­cal.

Wor­ried about con­tam­i­na­tion?

When you’re wor­ried about the wa­ter in par­tic­u­lar, you can al­ways boil the amount you want to con­sume when camp­ing, for ex­am­ple. If you’re ex­tra para­noid or un­cer­tain if that has been ef­fec­tive enough, then there are a num­ber of wa­ter-pu­ri­fy­ing chlo­rine tablets avail­able on the mar­ket that can do the job just fine – tak­ing out harm­ful micro­organ­isms in the wa­ter that cause ill­ness and dis­ease.

Our car­a­vans have built-in 150 ℓ fresh­wa­ter tanks as well as 20 ℓ aux­il­iary drink­ing wa­ter tanks, plus the op­tion of an ad­di­tional two 20 ℓ drink­ing wa­ter tanks. “Our rec­om­men­da­tion to campers is that they keep their drink­ing wa­ter con­tain­ers to a man­age­able size, like 10 or 20 ℓ for­mats so that even kids or teenagers can fetch wa­ter. You would nor­mally store that at the back of the tow­ing ve­hi­cle – that’s on top of the usual fresh­wa­ter that you would use for show­er­ing and other clean­ing. “The most im­por­tant thing with drink­ing wa­ter would be to keep it out of di­rect sun­light. “Our new Maxmo mo­torhome range will also fea­ture the op­tion of metal wa­ter stor­age tanks, with 150 ℓ of fresh­wa­ter stor­age and 50 ℓ of grey wa­ter stor­age.”

We chat­ted to Philip de Vries of Con­queror Off-Road Campers about the wa­ter tanks in his com­pany’s trail­ers and car­a­vans.

go! Drive and Camp says Plas­tics are care­fully con­structed ma­te­ri­als with a chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion that can be af­fected by what’s around it. Plas­tics are per­me­able so do not store your wa­ter around spare cans of fuel or pes­ti­cides.

STAY AWAY. While BPA has been getting a bad rap in re­cent times, it’s not the only bad chem­i­cal. Gen­er­ally, plas­tics that fall in the type 2, 4 and 5 cat­e­gories are safe for lim­ited use.

Leon Ras, head of sales at Mobi Lodge, had this to say about wa­ter stor­age in their car­a­vans.

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