The Basics of Your RV Water System


Understanding the fundamental water system hidden under your Forest River RV requires some knowledge of essential components. This article will highlight these basics and their functionality together in your RV water system.

Your first step should be understanding your RV city water connection. This involves attaching a drinking-water-safe hose directly to the city water spigot at your campsite or campground.

Fresh Water Tank

RV water tanks store fresh water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking purposes. These tanks can often be filled up from city water at campground spigots and then fed through to your water heater so it can be heated for your shower and sinks (most appliances also drain into black waste or gray water tanks).

An RV’s water can be obtained in two ways: either by connecting it to city water and taking advantage of its built-in pressure or by filling your freshwater tank. If connecting city water, however, a pressure regulator at the campsite spigot may be required in order to keep pressure from becoming too great and potentially bursting your RV plumbing pipes.

Your water pump will pull water from either your freshwater tank or city water source into your RV’s piping system and distribute it via faucets and showers using lines with hot/cold indicators (red/blue in most RVs) that indicate which one they’re supposed to go down. In addition, it should filter any freshwater lines for better taste reduction by eliminating chlorine or other chemicals present.

Black Water Tank

This is an easy way to understand how the RV toilet plumbing works. The Black Water Tank stores all waste from your toilet before being released into a sewer drain via its Black Waste Dump Valve. For optimal performance, roof vents should also be included in this tank to prevent methane gas build-up.

All sink, shower, and kitchen drains will drain into your RV’s Grey Water Tank, which features a roof vent to eliminate odors. As this tank contains only non-toilet waste products, such as gray water, it is typically smaller than black waste tanks.

As part of your RV toilet maintenance routine, it is a good idea to periodically empty both Grey and Black Tanks with special RV toilet chemicals for optimal odor and bacteria growth control. You can easily do this by connecting to either a full hookup campground or dump station along your travels; once emptied, be sure to open the valve and let everything drain entirely before closing it off and moving on with your trip.

Grey Water Tank

Most RVs feature a grey water tank that collects any runoff from sinks, showers, and toilet drains other than toilet waste, except toilet waste from flushing. This “gray water” (mainly composed of soap scum and residue from showering and bathing) is then stored until released at a dump station through an underground sewer hose.

Regular maintenance of the grey tank is necessary to avoid clogs, sensor malfunction, and foul odors. We suggest draining and flushing it using either commercial RV tank cleaners or homemade solutions using vinegar, baking soda, and hot water.

Gray water should not be dumped near or into natural water sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams; doing so could promote algal blooms that threaten fish populations and drive away visitors to these waters. RVers should use showerheads and faucets designed to consume less water as this will decrease the volume of gray water generated. Tank capacity depends on local laws regarding where and how this must be dumped.

Water Pump

RV plumbing diagrams will differ between manufacturers and models, yet specific patterns remain constant. RV manufacturers must optimize space by placing key connectors, valves, and pipes strategically so as to maximize functionality for these living quarters away from home.

RV water pumps work by moving freshwater from your camper’s freshwater tank through faucets, showerheads, and toilets – powered by electricity- so when not using them, it is wise to turn off both generators and city water supplies.

Most RVs feature onboard water filters to protect you from possible harmful contaminants in drinking water supplies at campgrounds or public sources.

When using a city water hookup, be sure to open one of your RV’s cold water taps so as to flush air from its suction line and help prepare your pump before connecting your hose. Once activated, incoming water will flow through your hose into your tank or faucets and become part of your supply.

Water Heater

An RV’s water heater functions similarly to household models in that it heats and distributes hot water throughout the home. A pump delivers it directly from the tank into faucets, showers, and toilets when you activate its control switch.

An RV’s water system gets its supply either from its freshwater tank or city water supply when parked at a campground and then distributes its water throughout its pipes to various parts of your camper or trailer. You can even connect a drinking-water safe hose directly to the fixture in your driveway and turn the valve to fill up its reservoir, just as you would do when filling a house’s supply with tap water.

Your RV contains multiple tanks of water that each serve a specific function. This guide offers you a basic understanding of how your RV water systems function so you know what steps to take should an emergency arise on the road and also how you can maintain them for years of trouble-free travel.