How Does an RV Water System Work? [Guide]

How Does an RV Water System Work

Key Takeaways
● RV water systems typically include a freshwater tank, water pump, pressure regulator, and city or freshwater connection.
● The system allows water to be drawn from the fresh tank or an external source like a hose or spigot into the RV’s plumbing fixtures.
● Maintaining your RV’s water system regularly by flushing out sediment buildup and checking for leaks can help ensure that your RV provides safe and reliable drinking water.

On the open road in your RV, nothing is more important than having a reliable water system. Without it, you can’t shower, flush the toilet, or make drinks or meals.

RV freshwater systems work by using a freshwater tank and a pump. The pump pulls water from the tank, pressurises it, and then sends it through the RV’s internal plumbing to its fixtures.

This blog post will take a closer look at how an RV water system works and some of the most common problems. We’ll also provide some tips for troubleshooting and fixing these issues yourself.

Components of an RV Water System

Components of an RV Water System

Now that you understand the basics let’s look at the components of an RV water system. Each RV plumbing system typically includes the following:

Freshwater Tank

The freshwater tank is the PRIMARY source of water for an RV water system, and it stores fresh drinking water. The tank size will depend on the model and size of your recreational vehicle, but they typically range from 10 to 40 gallons [1].

To keep bacteria levels low in your freshwater tank, regularly sanitize it with a safe cleaning solution or bleach mixture.

Water Pump

A water pump is used to PRESSURISE the water stored in the freshwater tank so it can be used throughout the RV. The pump should be rated for the SIZE of your RV and should also be able to accommodate the pressure you need for running showers, washing dishes, and other tasks.

A water pump typically draws power from the RV’s battery and runs on 12-volt electricity, although some systems may utilise 110-volt AC power.


Hoses are a key component in an RV water system. They provide the connection between the fresh water tank, pump, and fixtures, transporting pressurised water throughout your recreational vehicle.

These hoses should be made from food-grade MATERIALS to ensure safe drinking water and have good insulation to prevent freezing in cold weather conditions. Ensure all connections are securely tightened to avoid leaking or bursting hoses.

Water Pressure Regulator

The water pressure regulator is an essential component in an RV water system. It helps REGULATE the pressure entering your recreational vehicle’s plumbing system, ensuring a safe and consistent water flow.

Without a proper regulator, you could risk DAMAGING fixtures due to fluctuations in water pressure. Most regulators are ADJUSTABLE and have a maximum range of 50 to more than 100 psi.

Check with your manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended setting for your RV’s plumbing system before making any adjustments.

Check Valves

These valves are located near fixtures and help prevent the BACKFLOW of water into the freshwater tank or other system parts. They also maintain an adequate level of pressure throughout the entire system.


The thermostat controls your RV’s TEMPERATURE settings and monitors when your RV water heater needs to produce warm water. This component must be installed and functioning correctly for your hot water to be delivered safely and efficiently.

Water Heater

This device heats your water, providing warm or hot showers on demand. It’s typically powered by propane gas and electricity, depending on the model of your RV.

Pro Tip: To get the most out of your water heater, turn it off when not in use.

How Does an RV Water System Work?

How Does an RV Water System Work 1

Now that you know the components of an RV water system, let’s look at how it all works:

  • When a water faucet is turned on, the 12V DC pump within the RV engages and pressurises the system.
  • This pressurised water then travels through hoses to outlets located throughout the RV.
  • The thermostat initiates the heating process via the water heater, providing warm or hot showers as needed.
  • When you’re finished using pressurised water, any remaining pressure is released through a release valve located near each fixture.
  • This helps maintain constant pressure in the system, ensuring that all components are functioning properly.
  • When finished using the water heater, it will switch off to conserve energy and prevent excessive heating.
  • Finally, any wastewater is channelled through a grey tank or black tank, depending on usage. This wastewater can be emptied out at designated dump stations.

Setting Up an RV Water System

Setting Up an RV Water System

Now that you know the components of an RV water system let’s look at the steps involved in setting up and using your RV water system.

Connect Your Hoses

Start by connecting a hose from your freshwater tank to the water pump, then another hose from the pump to the regulator. Finally, connect a hose from the regulator to your faucets and fixtures.

Be sure that all connections are SECURELY tightened, and double-check for any leaks before moving on.

Install Your Pressure Regulator and Check the Valves

Once your hoses are correctly connected, you can install your pressure regulator and check valves. The pressure regulator should be attached BETWEEN the water pump and faucet/fixtures to regulate the amount of pressure entering the system [2].

On the other hand, check valves should be installed NEAR each fixture and can be easily secured with a few screws.

Prime the Pump

Once all components are in place, you must prime the pump to PREPARE it for operation. This involves filling the pump with water to start pressuring and circulating water throughout the RV’s plumbing system.

Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s INSTRUCTIONS for this step, as priming methods may vary depending on the model of your pump.

Connect Water Heater (If Applicable)

If your RV requires a water heater, you’ll need to connect it now. Start by connecting a hose from the regulator to the water heater’s inlet, then click a hose from the outlet to the rest of your RV’s plumbing system.

Additionally, you’ll need to connect any POWER sources necessary for your water heater to function properly. Check with your manufacturer for more detailed instructions on this step.

Test Your System

Once all components are connected and secured, it’s time to test your RV’s water system. Turn on each faucet one by one and check for any leaks or bursts in the lines. If everything is functioning CORRECTLY, you should now have access to clean drinking water throughout your RV!

Pro Tip: Make sure to turn off the water pump when finished using pressurised water, as it can quickly drain your RV’s battery.

Steps for Using an RV Water System

Steps for Using an RV Water System

Using an RV water system is straightforward once you have everything set up. Here are the steps for using it regularly:

Fill the Freshwater Tank

This is typically done with a garden hose or by CONNECTING the water intake valve on your RV to a pressurised water source. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for filling and emptying your tank, as not all tanks have the same capacity or requirements.

Turn On the Pump

Once your tank is full of fresh water, turn on your pump to start CIRCULATING it throughout the plumbing system. Most pumps have an On/Off switch near them, which can be used to toggle their operation.

Turn On the Faucet or Shower Head

Now you can turn on any faucets or shower heads in your RV and enjoy fresh drinking water or a hot shower. Be sure to MONITOR your freshwater tank levels as you’re using it since running out of water may cause damage to your RV’s plumbing system.

Turn Off the Pump and Close the Faucets When Finished

When you’re finished using the water system, turn off the pump and close all faucets and fixtures. This will help PREVENT any backflow from entering your RV’s plumbing system and causing damage.

Maintaining An RV Water System

Regular maintenance should be done to your RV’s water system to keep it functioning properly and efficiently. Here are a few maintenance tips that may help:

Regularly Check Your Hoses

Checking your hoses REGULARLY for any signs of wear or tear can help you spot potential problems before they become serious. Be sure to inspect each hose and replace them as needed.

Inspect Connections and Fixtures

Periodically check all connections and fixtures in your RV’s plumbing system for any signs of damage or leakage, including the water pump, pressure regulator, tank, valves, and faucets. REPLACE any parts that are worn or damaged.

Flush Out Tank Regularly

It is important to flush out your freshwater tank at least once every few months to PREVENT the buildup of dirt and debris. This can be done using a garden hose to flush out any contaminants from the tank.

Use a Water Filter

A water filter can help protect your RV’s plumbing system from DAMAGE caused by impurities in the water supply. Be sure to install the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions and replace it regularly for the best results.

Check Pressure Regulator

Your pressure regulator is an important part of your RV’s water system, as it helps regulate water flow throughout the plumbing system. Check it PERIODICALLY for signs of wear or damage, and replace it if necessary [3].

Follow Manufacturer Guidelines

Following your manufacturer’s guidelines when using and maintaining your RV’s water system is important. This will ensure that all components are functioning correctly and that you get the best performance possible.

Pro Tip: Be sure to test your water system before each use to ensure no leaks or bursts in the lines.

Troubleshooting Common Issues With An RV Water System

Troubleshooting Common Issues With An RV Water System

If you are having trouble with your RV’s water system, here are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem:

Low Water Pressure

If you notice that the water pressure in your RV is low, check to make sure all the valves and connections are securely attached. You may also need to replace worn or damaged parts to get the full flow of water back.

Leaky Fixtures

Check to ensure they are securely tightened if you notice any water LEAKING from your fixtures or valves. You may also need to REPLACE the gaskets or O-rings if worn or damaged.

Water Not Getting Hot

If you have trouble getting your water to heat up, check to see if the water heater is turned on and working properly. You may also need to REPLACE any worn or damaged parts to get the hot water flowing again.

No Water Flow

If your RV’s water system does not provide any water, check to ensure the pump is turned on and all connections are securely attached. You may need to REPLACE any corroded or damaged pipes to get the water flowing again.

Unpleasant Taste or Odor

If your water has a strange taste or odor, it is likely due to impurities in the water supply.

You can install a water filter to help remove these impurities and IMPROVE the taste and smell of your water. You should also inspect all parts of your RV’s plumbing system for any signs of corrosion or damage.

Loud Noises From Pipes

If you hear loud noises from your RV’s pipes, it could be an INDICATION of a leak or blockage.

Check all connections for any signs of leakage and use a plumbing snake to remove any debris causing the blockage.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Type of Water System Does an RV Have?

An RV typically has a 12-volt water system powered by the RV battery. This system pumps water from any external source on your camping sites, such as a hose or faucet.

Can I Use a Regular Garden Hose for My RV?

Yes, you can use a regular garden hose to fill your RV’s tank. However, it is essential to flush out the tank before using it to remove any impurities from the water supply.

What Types of Pumps Are Used in RV Water Systems?

The most common type of pump used in RV water systems is the diaphragm pump. These pumps are designed to handle high flow rates and pressures, making them well-suited for RV use.

How Can I Utilise City Water Connection for My RV?

If your campsite has a city water connection, you can use it to fill your RV’s tank. Connect the potable water hose to the designated inlet on your RV and turn on the tap.

When Should I Replace My RV Water Pump?

As a rule of thumb, most pumps should be replaced every two to three years, depending on usage and maintenance.


final thoughts 4

An RV water system is necessary for anyone in their recreational vehicle.

By understanding how it works and the components involved, you can keep your RV water system running smoothly and ensure access to fresh drinking water and hot water while on the road.

With some preparation and care, your RV water system will provide years of trouble-free service.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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