How to Refill Fresh Water Tank During Camping or RVing

With a large gas station directly across the highway from where we summer, we have a constant reminder of the price of gasoline and diesel. Lately, the price of diesel was steady at $5.09/gallon but dropped down to $4.99 as the Memorial Day holiday weekend closed, then rebounded to an even higher price. Gasoline, however, has continue to ping pong up and down varying between $4.09, $4.19, $4.29 and is now at the time I am writing this post is at $4.59/gallon.

The park where we stay/camphost during the summer doesn’t have FHU sites; They are electric only. Once weekly, our normal routine has been to ready the coach to move, drive to the park’s water fill and dump stations, then return to our site.  With the cost of fuel and other considerations, we’re doing things differently this year. We now rely on a sewer tote that we purchased years ago.  This was purchased years ago when we first started full-time RVing, because most parks and campgrounds in Wisconsin have only water and electric sites. The cost of the tote was easily recouped by not having to pay pump out fees. But the trade off is the process of filling, dragging and emptying the tote multiple times just to empty both black and gray tanks. Of course, this takes time away from other more enjoyable things.

How Do You Easily Refill an RV Water Tank When There’s No Water On-Site?

Since we don’t have water at our site, we also have to contend with replenishing water in the coach. While it’s not a difficult task, you have to have the materials to facilitate the process. We use a couple of 7 gallon capacity blue water containers to transport water from the tap to the coach. I do this every couple of days just to keep the fresh water tank mostly filled. It’s easier to keep it topped off than to make multiple trips weekly. Especially since there are days when the weather is not conducive to doing this chore, like when its pouring rain.

My Setup for Refilling the Fresh Water Tank

Gravity is the cheapest method if you can get the water container above the tank to be filled and have a gravity fill inlet, as our coach has. (I can’t understand why many motorhomes don’t have this option. One can’t always fill from a faucet.) When a gravity transfer isn’t practical because you can’t get the container higher than the filler inlet, some sort of mechanical means will be necessary to pump the water from container to tank.

A Simple, Inexpensive Water Pump or Let Gravity Do the Work

While there are plenty of water pump options, I found an inexpensive solution in the form of a small 12v Electric Circulation Pump and some Silicone Hose. This particular pump comes with an AC adapter. I simply use the same extension cord used in the winter months to heat the wet bay. One can also purchase a variety of 12v connectors to connect the pump to any 12v power source. Which I will do, as we also plan to use this setup to pump water while overland camping with the Jeep. (The Jeep has 12v outlets and a 110AC outlet.)

A helpful tip, purchase a spare cap for the water container you’ll be using and a nipple as show in the picture. This allows you to connect the silicone hose to the water container cap. The hose I purchased has a 3/8″ ID and the threaded end that screws into the cap is 3/4″OD. I sourced it from a local farm and ranch store.

With the adapted cap and a length of hose, you place the container on its side above the filler opening for the water tank with the hose inserted into the opening…gravity does the rest.

When you need to pump the water you can use the set-up shown above. Or place the siphon hose into the open container and the discharge hose into the filler opening of the tank. I cut the siphon hose so that the end of the hose touches the bottom of the container, with the pump unit resting on the container’s opening.

I stack on container one the other to get the necessary height needed.

Using what resources I have on hand…in this case it’s a short ladder, I stack two water containers to get the necessary height needed to transfer water using gravity only. Then I swap the location of the two after the top one is empty.

The electric circulation pump has a rated capacity of 2.1 gallons per minute, so it should take about 3-1/2 minutes to complete the transfer. I find it takes slightly longer so the rating isn’t spot on accurate. The gravity method is slower, taking upwards of ten to fifteen +/- minutes to empty the container.

If you prefer filtering your water before filling the tank, use a filter attached to your water hose when filling the water containers at the source of the water.

Keep it Sanitary!

To keep your pump, adapter and hoses clean between uses place them in a one gallon Zip-Loc bag. Sanitize when necessary by wiping down with a bleach/water solution. Flush the hoses (NOT THE PUMP) if necessary with the same solution as needed.

The hardest part of this process is the lifting and moving of full containers. This is where having a means to transport the containers without lifting them and using a pump to transfer the water will make the job much easier. Is this worth the effort to save on fuel? Fuel prices will determine that over time. If you happen to be somewhere where you are already paying $7.00/gallon, you’re probably looking for ways like this to spend less at the gas station.


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Gerald Voigt

Gerald's interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He's an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.