Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I can lead my wife to water, but I can’t make her drink. We travel in our fifth wheel several months a year. We are usually in the West in the summer and Florida in the winter months. My wife will not drink the water we put in our tanks. I have filters on the inlet, filters at the sink, and pitcher filters strictly for drinking water.
She has a hang-up about where we get some of our water, often near dump stations.
In Florida she says it smells like sulfur and tastes like swamp water; out in New Mexico she read about a leaky waste site with groundwater contamination from the Hiroshima bomb.
I can’t win. She would keep buying bottled water even if I hooked up to a sparkling glacier.
Don’t you think this borders on paranoia? I don’t think many RVers are dying from drinking water. Please let me hear from you on this issue.
--Water Boy in Boynton
Dear Water Boy:
I would not call this paranoia. Paranoia would be anxiety or fear based on irrationality and delusion. Your wife has some very real concerns. I’m not sure buying bottled water is the answer -- who knows where that came from. Actually, you might not want to bring that point up.
Some Florida water does contain sulfur. It is wise to flush your tanks after spending a winter down there, especially your hot water tank.
As for New Mexico, she has a right to be concerned. The waste from our first bomb experiments is leaking into the Rio Grande. It is also causing some concern near Carlsbad, where some of it was moved and stored.
Most dump stations are signed to show “potable” and “non-potable” water. However, if you do enough traveling you will see people using the wrong hose for the wrong purpose. I have tried to educate many foreign visitors with rented motorhomes as to which hose is for sewer rinse and which is for filling the fresh water tank.
Some people are more susceptible to waterborne disease than others. I have been drinking unfiltered water in the backcountry for fifty years without incident. My wife thinks I am going to die from giardia. So far so good.
I think you should continue taking every precaution that makes your wife feel comfortable. Nothing is going to be foolproof, but good sanitation habits, concern over your water sources, and good old common sense should keep you safe wherever you travel.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink