When you are on the road for an extended period of time, you’ll have to fill your water tanks up from time to time. The thing is though, where can you fill water tanks up, and what do you need to look for?
Like many learning curves and adjustments that are made when camping, or travelling long term, getting water is actually quite simple and painless but there are a few tricks that you need to be aware of.
This applies to filling up small jerry cans of water for camping, or for filling caravan water tanks, camper trailers or motorhomes.
What do you need to know about water?
Look after it
Water is a precious commodity, and despite it being extremely cheap in the major cities, you should use it carefully. This is even more of the case in towns that have experienced drought, and are on severe water restrictions.
If you are wasteful with their water, you are likely to cop attitude from the locals. On top of this, if you get good at conserving your water you can stay in amazing places for longer, without trying to find where to fill caravan water tanks!
Lucky for you, its really easy to conserve water when camping, and you can hugely reduce your consumption by taking short showers, reducing the number of dishes you create, re-using water where possible and being careful in general.
When we are completely full, we carry around 340L of water. We can comfortably get 2 weeks off grid with this, with showers every couple of days.
In fact, we’ve gotten a short shower for us two adults and our 2 kids down to 14L of water, which makes it extremely easy to conserve water.
We monitor the water consumption through our Topargee Water Tank Gauge.
Fill up from safe locations only
If you want to get very, very sick, water is one of the easiest ways to do it. If its not potable, or hasn’t been treated properly, you can get ill very quickly. You should never fill up with water from a source that you aren’t sure is safe.
Some bore water is safe to drink (and tastes great) and some is terrible, and the taps look the same. Some water is classified as potable, and some is only for washing dishes, so make sure you use the right water for the right application.
Sometimes this is signed as potable and non potable, but it isn’t always and you take a big risk drinking water that you aren’t sure is safe for consumption.
Use water near your camp appropriately
We make a habit of using water available from streams, creeks and rivers (where safe to do so; if there are crocs around its not worth the risk!) to use for showers and bathing our toddler, and occasionally dish washing water if its clean enough.
This is the ultimate way to conserve water, especially when it comes to showering. You can have a nice, long, warm shower from a bucket of clean creek water on the fire, and it doesn’t eat into your water supply at all.
If we are really pushing the water front, we’ll rinse our dishes in the ocean first (without soap) and do the final clean back at camp with hot, soapy fresh water.
You aren’t allowed to take water from everywhere
A lot of people who travel Australia now have a anti-vandalism key, which will turn most water taps on in Australia. The thing is though, are you actually allowed to take water from all of these taps?
Water costs money, and someone has to foot the bill for the water that is taken when it shouldn’t be.
If you fill up from a public toilet, who pays for the water? If hundreds of vans a week did this, the expenses can be significant, and this is exactly why paid water stations are becoming more and more common.
If you aren’t sure, ask, or go somewhere else.
If you want a key, its generally referred to as a 4 way vandal proof tap key, and you can get them from Bunnings and a range of other places. Use them responsibly though.
What does water actually cost?
In Perth, Western Australia, you are looking at $1.859 per kilolitre of water used (and it goes up to 2.477 and 4.633 a kL if you use a lot more).
That’s 0.186 cents per litre of water, which you’d think is pretty cheap. but it can be much more expensive to make depending on where you are. Coral Bay for example, has to make its own water with a desalinisation plant that runs off grid, and you will pay 10 cents a litre.
The Exmouth water filling station has a minimum charge of $2.50 and they charge you $50 per kilolitre (5 cents per litre).
Now, imagine in a big town (like Karratha or Exmouth), where you have upwards of 300 setups a day filling water, and you start to talk some serious water consumption.
If the average fill was 100 litres (and its probably more these days), you are using 30,000 litres a day, and its only fair that the right people pay for that.
I think you’ll find a lot more of these paid water stations in the future going up! It makes sense to have dedicated Caravan water filling stations that are low cost, easily accessible and simple to find.
Where to fill water tanks
You can get drinking water (often referred to as potable water) from a heap of different places in Australia,
Most Caravan Park will have water taps at all of the powered sites where you can collect clean drinking water from.
As we usually camp at unpowered sites, we fill the tanks up before setting up, and then top them up as required with a long hose, on the way out or we fill the 4WD water tank up and then transfer it (which is a much slower way of doing it!).
Caravan parks will have their taps clearly labelled, or you’ll get instructions when you check in. Some caravan parks use bore water, and some have specific drinking water outlets.
Most service stations won’t have an issue with you filling water tanks up, as long as you buy some fuel. Some of them have the wrong tap styles that are pretty hard to take water from, but many use normal taps. It pays to ask whether the water is potable before filling your tanks up!
We’ve been to some service stations that have a potable water tap right on the end of their fuel bowsers, and they’ve been more than happy for us to fill up as needed. Of course, be respectful of those waiting behind you too!
A lot of information/visitor centres have taps for drinking water, where you can fill your tanks up. This is pretty smart, as it gives a reason for travellers to come into town.
Towns that support Caravans and campers are greatly rewarded by the visitors spending money on fuel, food and other gear.
We filled up at the Broome Information Centre which had anti vandal taps, and you’d get the key by going into the visitor centre and borrowing it for the duration required to fill your tanks.
Designated water stations
There are more and more designated water fill up points around Australia. Some are still free (which is amazing) and some charge you a few dollars to fill up (depending on the amount).
Most dump points also have a fresh water drinking point, but double check that it is potable water, and don’t use the tap that people use to wash their poop down the dump point (yes, I’ve seen it done numerous times!).
Wikicamps is a great place to find water sources, but not all are legit in the fact that just because you can take water doesn’t mean you are supposed to. Ask the locals, ring the council, speak to the visitor centre and find yourself a water source that is clean, you are allowed to use and that suits your travel style.
Blocking the main road of a small town for 20 minutes while you fill caravan water tanks up is probably not a good idea!
Where do you get your water from? What have we missed?