Is Campground Water Safe To Drink? 5 Ways to Ensure it is

RV with in-line water filter

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Finding a good clean water source is one of the biggest concerns that you may have when camping. However, when staying in a civilized campground, an unlimited supply of water will likely be available right out of the spigot at your campsite. But regardless of whether you have public drinking water or are close to a natural surface water source, the question of water safety always looms large.

Is it safe to drink campground water?

Campground water can be safe to drink in most cases but not all campgrounds are the same. Many campgrounds use a municipal water supply that undergoes rigorous water treatment standards. However, some campgrounds use wells, and/or other sources of natural water that may not be potable.

It’s best to assume that it’s not and plan to treat the water yourself before drinking. This can be done in a variety of ways, which will be outlined below, and can ensure that you are drinking clean water no matter what campground you visit.

Unfortunately, campgrounds differ in the quality of water available depending on the location. Even those that utilize public water sources may not be of the same standard that you may find in another location. Besides that, other contaminants could enter the water source from tainted pipes or other plumbing issues throughout the campground.

It’s best to take precautions and have filtering and purifying options available on your trips.

Personally, I never drink water straight from the spigot in a campground. No matter the quality of the water, I always run the water through a filtration system or bring my own treated water with me if it’s a short trip. Others may not be so picky be I tend to err on the side of caution concerning my health.

Let’s take a better look at whether you can drink water at campgrounds and how to purify water to make sure it is potable.

Drinking Water at Campgrounds

Campgrounds differ in the type of water sources they use so you never really know just how safe the water is. While many claim to have potable water that should be safe to drink, even KOA recommends having an RV water filter in order to ensure water safety no matter where you travel.

If you are camping in an area where your only water source is naturally occurring, such as in streams or rivers, determining whether it is safe to drink can be a lot trickier. For naturally occurring water to be considered potable, you have to know where the water flows from.

If the water flows downstream from either a residential area or an area where there are agricultural, commercial, or industrial activities, such as mining, that should tell you not to drink from the surface water without treating it first.

However, even in the case of naturally occurring water that flows from what is considered a clean or safe environment, there is always the possibility of contamination from animal feces or other bacteria.

Whether the campground utilizes a treated municipal water source or a natural water source, you should be knowledgeable about the different ways to purify the water. This will keep you safe from the contaminants that might pollute water sources.

5 Ways To Purify Water When Camping or RVing

Man pouring boiling water while camping

If you’re out camping for days, the last thing you want to happen is to get sick from drinking unsafe water. Unfortunately, it happens too frequently, especially because storing drinking water is often a problem.

If you store as much as you need, it will take up too much space. But if you don’t, you’ll need to rely on water sources that you find along the way. Sadly, the latter is often unsafe. So for your peace of mind, let’s discuss some of the easy ways you can treat your water so you have enough supply of drinking water that’s tummy-safe for your whole camping trip.

Here are camping-friendly ways to purify water:

  • Use an RV water filter
  • Use a portable water filter.
  • Boil the water.
  • Treat water with water purifying tablets.
  • Bring your own drinking water.

1. Use an RV Water Filter

If you are traveling in an RV, the best way you can protect yourself is to use an RV filtration system. Many newer RVs come with an internal water filter pre-installed so you don’t have to worry about anything other than changing the filters from time to time.

There are multiple options when considering this. You can choose to install a filter in line with the incoming water source so that all of the water throughout your RV is purified. This will include all water coming from the taps and the shower.

If you do not care to filter the shower water, a local water filter can be used under the sink where you will get your drinking water. This will purify your drinking water but leave your shower water untreated.

A combination of both is ideal. For example, you could use the Camco TastePure RV/Marine Water Filter on the outside of your RV while using an under-the-sink reverse osmosis system inside your RV. If you already have an internal filtration system in your RV, an inline filter like this will reduce sediments and other impurities before it even reaches your RV.

2. Use a Portable Water Filter

If you don’t have the room or don’t want to install a filter on your RV, a portable system may work great for you. One of the best on the market is the Berkey water filter system which is known for its ability to remove a high number of contaminants.

The Travel Berkey is perfect for RVs of all sizes. You can simply fill the unfiltered water reservoir with water and let the gravitational filtration system do the work. The purified water will be available via the spigot on the bottom, making it a convenient way to access it.

Berkey Filters are known to be among the best on the market so if you are looking for a portable solution, this one should top your list.

Many portable systems are designed to be safe for use when you know that your water source is clean enough as it is, such as if it is NOT flowing from a polluted or chemically contaminated environment. If it is coming from a public water supply, a portable filter should be able to purify the water to a more drinkable level.

Portable filters are great to use if you’re using them to purify campground water that’s intended for drinking, but that you’re not sure is being filtered or treated properly. It’s important to remember that not all portable water filters are made alike.

And to be effective in purifying your water, your water filter should:

  • Have a fine pore size to be able to filter out viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and pesticides.
  • Be NSF-certified.

If you want to take it further, you can also use a water filter that uses reverse osmosis. This way, it will also be able to filter out bacteria and viruses. These water filters are typically bulkier, though. But in an RV, you can have plenty of space to set them up. A great option is the AquaTru Countertop Water Filtration System with 4-Stage Ultra Reverse Osmosis Technology. This is a countertop reverse osmosis system that I have used in my home for years. It could work great in larger RVs that have room for them.

Aquatru filling glass with water

3. Boil the Water

Perhaps the easiest way to have access to clean water is to boil whatever water you find that is accessible to you, not including saltwater. If you have access to heating or if you have a portable camping stove, this should be easy to do.

Here are the things you will need:

  • A water pot or other system that allows you to boil water, such as a JetBoil.
  • Portable camping stove with propane/butane gas

To make water potable, here’s what you need to do:

  • Fill your pot or cup with water.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Allow it to boil for at least a minute.
  • Let cool.

Once the water has been boiled for a minimum of a minute, you have successfully killed all the germs, bacteria, or pathogens that may have been in it. Now all you need to do is let it cool down and enjoy your cup of clean water.

4. Treat Water With Water Purifying Tablets

Another option that you can go for is using water purifying tablets made of chlorine dioxide. This is a great option if you have no patience to boil liters and liters of water or don’t like using a portable water filter.

One added advantage to this type of purification method is that it can improve the taste of your water while the previous two might not be able to do so.

If you’re looking for water purification tablets, check out Potable Aqua Water Purification Germicidal Tablets. It contains 50 tablets in a bottle, and you’ll need only two tablets to treat 0.9 liters (0.24 gallons) of water. All you have to do is drop two tablets in the water, wait for 35 minutes, and your water is safe to drink.

Using this method is great if you’re always on the go, as it’s an easy emergency fix. Also, the bottle can fit in any handbag or purse.

5. Bring Your Own Drinking Water

The option that I generally use when I know I am only staying a week or less is to bring my own water. I have multiple 5-gallon water jugs that can be filled with water from grocery stores or health food stores. I usually top these jugs off with my home reverse osmosis system before leaving and I’m good for a week or even more depending on the time of year.

Filtered water 5-gallon jug

Even if I run out, I am in a camper van so I can easily make my way to a store and fill the jugs back up with purified water.

This won’t work for everyone. Bringing your own water like this does require some extra space and it might not work for you if you have a small camper or are a large family that uses a lot of water. However, if you are going on a short trip, you might want to consider purchasing a large container to take water that you know is purified and safe to drink.


Safe drinking water is essential to our health, no matter if we’re in the comfort of our homes or out exploring the great outdoors. So for your safety and peace of mind, make sure to always treat or purify the water that you put inside your drinking bottles.

You never know what you can trust even if the campground claims to have potable water. It’s best to always assume it’s not and have a way to purify it even further. Having clean drinking water is an important part of camping. You’ll probably drink more when you are in the great outdoors so ensuring the water is safe just makes sense.

Dan Collins

I consider myself an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel and go to places that most people don't get a chance to go. I want to see it all and live life to the fullest while I'm alive. My camper van is helping me to do just that. I write about my experiences to help inspire others to do the same.

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