Off-Grid Boat Life: How We Purify Water
Sometimes we get super sketchy water and sometimes our storage tanks get a bit slimy. But, we drink it anyway! After we purify it of course.
Water is our most important resource…we literally can’t survive without it.
The average human should consume 2 liters of water per day. Here in the tropics, we probably sweat at least 4 liters a day, so we consume more! At least 65 liters a week between the two of us.
After nine years of living off the grid, we like to think we have the water situation down pat. Not only can we stretch a gallon of water like a desert rat…we’ve never had to buy bottled water for our traveling home. This is why we’re sharing the scoop on how we store, filter, and purify our water.
Join us aboard Curiosity for some high-quality H20!
Water Storage & Why It’s Sketchy
Every boat, RV, tiny home, or whatever form of traveling off the grid home, will be a little different but in general, we all have some sort of storage tank and a method to get it out of the tank. Either by gravity flow, foot pump, or electric pump.
We have 2 x 100-gallon (378 liters) tanks and an electric water pump that sends water to all the various parts of our boat (sinks, showers, and such).
While our watermaker is our main source of water and the quality is unbeatable, there are instances where we need to source it elsewhere. Because our watermaker is older, we’ve had a couple of parts burn out on us. Then there have been times where we’ve been anchored near or in a river where water quality is so dirty and silty, it would have clogged our watermaker filters in no time.
But, no matter where we source our water from, it’s always stored in our potentially sketchy (petri dish in waiting) water tanks. Even if the water going in is super squeaky clean (like from our RO)…water tanks get grubby! Here’s why:
- Our tanks are not perfectly sealed and are subject to whatever bacteria/creatures are in the air or can squeeze through any gaps or seals.
- It gets hot and bacteria love warm environments.
- Tanks get exposed to air and outside contaminants each time we open them.
- Sometimes we fill our tanks with public water (each has its own set of bacteria and unknown quality).
- Our water tanks are hard to clean and sanitize (most are).
Drinking sketchy water can mean consequences far worse than a dose of Montezuma’s Revenge. This brings us to the importance of water filtration and purification.
Carbon (and Brita-type) filters don’t purify water, they filter it. They help with odor, taste, and remove chemicals (like chlorine) and hard metals (like lead), and sediment. Which is great! But, any biological creatures such as giardia or e. coli pass right through. So, you still have those pesky illness-causing microorganisms to worry about.
Purification is the only way to guarantee safe drinking water but…filters have their place too. Filters help with particles and taste, which is why we use carbon filters for the “whole house” and all the benefits they provide.
Whole House Filter: https://amzn.to/2EkZCHH
- Filters and reduces sediment, dirt, sand, silt, rust, scale particles, Chlorine taste & odor, VOC’s
Inline Filter For Water hose: https://amzn.to/2Emns5W
There are lots of ways to go about purifying water (new gadgets hitting the outdoor lovers market all the time). But for sanity and time’s sake, we’ll stick to the basics…and our fave high-tech method aboard curiosity.
Boiling water is always an option. Just bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute. Simple, effective, no chemicals needed!
Chemically treat it
Iodine is often more effective than chlorine, but iodine-treated water shouldn’t be used for more than a few months at a time. Iodine can be bad for pregnant women and people with thyroid conditions. This is NOT a long-term option.
Chlorine isn’t great either. Lots of off the grid peeps use chlorine to keep the gunk from growing and purify the water (straight up, not scented, check epa.gov for recommendations on dilution). It can do the trick, but…
- Chlorine is a contaminant
- makes the water smell like chlorine
- tastes bad
- can cause problems with cooking (kills cultures in bread and yogurt)
- can damage watermaker membranes
- toxic to fish, other aquatic animals, reptiles, and amphibians
Plus, the EWG.org states, “Drinking water disinfection is essential and saves lives from microbial diseases. But when chlorine and other disinfectants react with plant and animal waste in the water, harmful disinfection byproducts are formed.”
Salty Myth: A cup of rum keeps the tank clean.
I’ve had soooo many sailors tell me a cup of rum keeps the water safe. The ethanol concentrations that you need in order to kill bacteria are scarcely enough for what you get in Rum itself. Dilute it and you have nothing more than rum and rain. Sadly, booze is not a water treatment solution…but trust me, I really, really wanted this one to work out. Rum scented coffee, bread, showers, and more sounded lovely!
The Ultimate, tech-loving, safety joe approved water purification method is LED-UV.
We’re not talking about the old UV lights that were made with mercury, were power-hungry and needed replacing every year.
There is a new generation of LED-UV and it’s a massive improvement! As with other LED lights, the LED-UV lights are much more environmentally friendly and last way, way, way longer.
Ultraviolet water purification is the most effective method for disinfecting bacteria from the water (aside from RO). UV rays penetrate harmful pathogens in the water and annihilate illness-causing microorganisms by attacking their DNA. 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens…dead!
We’ve had a variety of UV water purifiers over the years. We have a UV light for backpack travel/hiking. In the RV we had a tabletop distiller and UV light. We even had a UV/Carbon setup back in our sedentary days in Dallas (because city water tastes funky and can be sketchy too).
In other words, we’re big fans of UV purification!
Going back circa 2017, we were in Florida outfitting Curiosity for her worldly voyage. We knew we wanted an inline water system that we could install and not have to fuss with. But, we were concerned about any unit surviving the harsh marine environment. That is when we came across Acuva. It is a compact, all stainless steel, marine-grade system we could install right at our faucet. We were sold. So, we requested a unit to review…and here we are over a year later, happy, hydrated sailors.
This is a new generation of LED-UV and it’s a massive improvement! As with other LED lights, the LED-UV lights are much more environmentally friendly and last way longer (around 10 years).
- Sterilizes 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens
- Improves taste, odor and color
- Low power consumption
- Hooks up to a standard 12V battery or AC power
Acuva has offered up $100.00 OFF any system! We have the Arrow 5 and we installed the ECO-NX on Jason’s mom’s van.
- Buy From Acuva – bit.ly/acuvawynns
- Enter Promo Code WYNNS at checkout
Finding the correct filters through sites like Amazon is a deep search! There are so many models that look the same…but they are NOT! To get the ¼” female thread you must search the EXACT filter name and confirm the MFR Model # after you click the link.
- Basic Carbon Filter – Pentek GS-10-B Inline (Model 255503-43)
- Buy From Amazon – https://amzn.to/2XbiGj8
Granular activated carbon filter that reduces bad taste and odor including chlorine (uses coconut shell granular activated carbon to reduce the bad taste and odor of chlorine plus common particulates and other impurities).
- Re-Mineralize Filter – iSpring 10″ Inline Minerals Filter FX15
- Buy From Amazon – https://amzn.to/2XfGr9G
By adding this inline filter as the final stage in an RO system, you’ll get the optimum benefit of the alkaline-mineral media. With this addition, you turn your existing reverse osmosis system into a spring water source with all alkaline and antioxidant qualities. This alkaline antioxidant filter provides abundant active hydrogen. It also increases the reduction of power by increasing pH, making small water clusters, and providing beneficial minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
Show Me The Money – The Most Affordable Option
Remember when we said the average human should consume 2 liters of water per day? Well, that is just the bare minimum. Here in Tahiti, a 5-liter jug is 330 CFP.
- 2 liters a day per person x 365 days in a year = 730 liters
- That means we would need 146 of those 5-liter jugs.
- 146 5-liter jugs x 330 CFP Franc = 48,180
- 1 CFP Franc = 0.0095 USD
- 48,180 CFP = $457.72 USD
- $457.72 A Year Per Person x two = $915.44
$915.44 a year just in drinking water! The Acuva Eco and a couple of charcoal filters may seem like a big upfront investment, but it is way cheaper than buying bottled water.
Water filtration and purification are incredibly important to any traveler and especially anyone traveling with their home.
We have filled our tanks with all sorts of sketchy water sources that are not advised for drinking. But, because we have our filters and LED-UV for purification…we’re able to turn any water into squeaky clean, high-quality H20! Water quality so good, it’s better than bottled water.
We have two thirsty felines on board and have friends, family, and patrons who come stay with us. So, having an onboard setup as we do…well, I couldn’t imagine NOT having it!
Whether it’s a system like ours or something similar, it doesn’t take long to see that an at-home purification system is the most convenient, safe, affordable, environmentally friendly option.
Ocean Plastic Polution
Buying bottled water is a serious environmental issue. We see a disturbing amount of plastic floating past us every day…and we know we’re part of the problem. As I sit here typing this, I can see at least a dozen different plastic items in our saloon. Sure, single-use plastic bags, straws, and containers are a big culprit, but all plastics are a problem.
Just how much plastic is in our ocean?
In 2012 5Gyres gathered a group of scientists to find out. They determined that there were 269,000 metric tons and 5.25 trillion particles—enough to stretch to the moon and back, twice.
We really love the work and education that 5Gyres.org is doing. We love it so much we signed on as 5Gyres Ambassadors! If you want to learn more about the problems our oceans face and what you can do about it, please check them out.
THANK YOU! 🙏
Sharing this unsedentary lifestyle and what we learn along the way is possible because of viewers like you. If you like what you see, there are lots of FREE ways you can show your support. Thank you for being a part of the journey.
Don’t Listen to People On The Internet!
We always say, do your own research. So don’t just take our word for it (or anyone else’s). We’re always in a state of learning and new information comes out all the time. The more we all fact check and share information, the more informed we all are.
Here are some of the resources we use when learning about water:
- Wikipedia (loosely as it is crowd-sourced)
- Environmental Working Group (ewg.org)
- Environmental Protection Agency (epa.org)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov)