Sourcing clean drinkable water is an important weekly activity in van life and sometimes tricky. There are services in most European countries but the quality of the water can vary depending on the area and how well the travellers and local municipalities look after them. Generally in most western European countries the water is safe but most eastern countries recommend bottled water for drinking.
Bad water that can make you ill might contain bacteria, parasites or heavy metals such as lead, copper etc. In other situations water may be safe but just taste bad if it's a hard water area or may contain chlorine. The general rule is if it says the water is potable it should be safe to drink.
Most of the time we find water just tastes bad particularly in Spain where they use alot of chlorine to filter out bacteria, which is perfecty safe but is like drinking from a swimming pool! On some occasions though we've come across services in every country where the hygiene is suspect, for instance the water tap is close to the toilet disposal drain... infact we've often seen people rinse their toilet cassette with the drinking water tap!!!
Many experienced travellers we've come across therefore don't trust services and drink only bottled water, and we did the same for our first year of van life. You can pick up bottled water fairly cheap from places like Aldi and Lidl which are all over europe. It's usually around a euro for 5 litres, but for the 2 of us we were getting through about 15 litres a week and that amounted to alot of plastic waste, not to mention the amount of microplastics we would likely have ingested!
For our second year of van life we did some intense research with our main aim to ditch plastic bottles altogether. We initially found water filters like Brita were the most viable option, but still relied heavily on plastic (although sometimes you can recycle the cartridges but not the packaging) and ended up being quite expensive. We eventually came accross a Spanish company called Tapp that produce a low cost filter that you can screw onto the end of your sink tap and uses bio degradable cartridges that last 3 months each. These cartridges use coconut shell activated carbon block activity... we thought that sounded pretty cool!
we researched the Tapp filters out:
- Chlorine - removes 95%
- Nitrate - removes 70%-90%
- Phosphate - removes 70%-90%
- Lithium - removes 70%-90%
- Fluoride - removes 80%
- Heavy metals (lead, copper etc) - removes 95%
- Volatile Organic Compounds (pesticides, herbicides etc) - removes 95%
- Pharmaceuticals - removes 95%
- Microplastics - removes 100% over 2 microns (most micro plastics are well above 2.5 microns so this is good)
- Total Suspended Solids (plant/animal matters sewage etc) - removes 100%
- Bacteria and Viruses - varies, removes some but not all
These results came from Tapp directly and while they're independent lab tests we still remain cautious, however we can confirm in bad water areas where the taste is bad (particularly chlorine) it completely filters out the bad taste! What's more we've never been ill from any wate we've had since using it which at the time of writing is 6 months accross the UK, France and Spain.
We went for the Tapp2 Click which came with a few fittings that can fit on the end of most taps but you can email them for advice. We made a custom tap out of 15mm copper pipe and contacted them for assistance, they were very helpful and in the end they sent out an adapter we could fit onto a piece of 20mm pipe which we hooked up to a 20mm to 15mm elbow reducer and had a working tap. They didn't even charge for the adapter!
Heres a video of it in action:
The Tapp cost around £50 and came with a filter. Replacement filters then cost around £20 each there after. It also comes with an app you can use to track when you replace your filter and it'll send you reminders when it runs out, it'll also give you an estimate how many plastic bottles you would have saved.
Financially, we were spending about €36 every 3 months on bottled water, now we only spend €20 on Tapp filters. What's more, our app tells us we've saved nearly 500kg of co2 since using the Tapp! Whats more, this filter is effective at removing microplastics too so we would have reduced our plastic intake hugely, especially as some surveys estimate we normally intake around 250g worth of plastic each year as individuals.
The only downside of the Tapp is it's a little fragile so you have to be careful with it otherwise it'll defeat the whole objective, but overall we would recommend it!
We'll continue to test our Tapp and will post any additional feedback to this article.
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