RV Water System & Plumbing (Diagrams & Advice)

From start to finish, get your camper van plumbing questions answered here.

This site contains affiliate links to products. More info in our disclaimer.

Camper Van Water System Installation Guide

In this post you will learn how to set up your own RV water system and plumbing. We include helpful diagrams and a list of all the products and accessories you need to build your own:

So if you’re ready to learn more about setting up your own plumbing system in your motor home, keep reading!

Did You Know? This post is Part 1 of our 4-part DIY Plumbing Series. Check below to view the entire series. Or...simply return to our camper van build guide.

1. RV Water System Diagrams

In this post, we show you how to build two separate water systems:

Sink & Faucet Water System Diagram


Sink & Faucet Water System Diagram For Camper Vans
Sink & Faucet Diagram

Outdoor Hot Water Shower System Diagram


Outdoor Shower Plumbing Diagram For Camper Vans
Hot Water Shower Plumbing Diagram For Camper Vans

To learn how to set up your own RV water system, like in the diagrams above, keep reading our post.

We will go over all the main products and accessories.

Want To Build A Camper Van?

2. Sink & Faucet System Installation

Sink & Faucet Water System Diagram For Camper Vans
Sink & Faucet Diagram

What You Need (Product List)

Fresh Water Jugs (aka Jerry Cans)

7 Gallon Jerry Can

Bonus: This particular 7-gallon water jug comes with a pre-made hole in it's cap to fit an included water spout. The spout isn't important, but the hole in the cap allows you to sandwich plumbing fittings above and below the cap. (See plumbing diagram for details)

We use jerry cans to hold our fresh and grey water under our sink. We love these containers because, with a quick connector, we can easily unhook these cans to refill and dump outside the van.

These containers are also made of high-grade plastic and have survived the years of abuse we’ve thrown at them.

A wide variety of jerry cans can be easily found at camping/outdoor stores and Walmart. We’ve looked at lots of different sizes and styles, but we prefer the 7 gallon jerry cans from Reliance to hold our fresh water.

Learn More: Fresh Water Tanks For RVs & Camper Vans

Gray Water Jugs

For our grey water, we prefer the Reliance 6-gallon water jug. The lower height allows the sink water to drain properly and the Camco drain pipe tightly into the tank when you invert the included spout.

6-gallon gray water jug

Camco drain pipe

Alternative Option: Built-in water tanks, specifically made for mobile homes, are also a good option for water storage. We discuss this type of water tank in more detail in our hot water shower diagram, below.

PEX Plumbing Pipes & Fittings

The easiest way to build your camper’s plumbing system is with PEX pipes. These pipes and all related fittings are available at Home Depot or most local hardware stores.

  • Lightweight: Great for RVs & campers
  • Quick installation: Easy to cut and connect PEX pipes
  • Flexible tubing: Perfect for DIY jobs and imperfect measurements
  • High-grade plastic: Resists high-temperatures, corrosion, and abuse

1/2" PEX Pipes

To build a plumbing system using PEX pipes, you’ll need:

PEX Pipe Installation Tutorial

This simple video is a great tutorial on how to cut and crimp PEX pipes. It really is that simple.

Quick Connect Hose Fitting

In order to take your water jugs outside to refill them, the jugs need to be disconnected from the water system.

This handy quick connect hose fitting works great and makes it easy to take our fresh water jug out and put back in.

Quick Connect Hose Fitting

Water Pump

Though you can go old-school with a foot pump, we think the addition of a 12v, electric water pump is a great upgrade to your camper van’s water system.

To learn more how to set up the electric side of your camper van, visit our electrical system guide.

12-Volt Water Pump

Additional Water Pump Accessories

  • Water pump silencing kit: Essentially rubber hosing that fits on either side of the pump to reduce pump vibration and noise.
  • Pump filter: Filters out impurities in the water that might damage the water pump
  • Water accumulator: Helps to lengthen water pump lifespan by making it work less (less pulsation & cycling). This product is optional.

Sinks & Faucets

Sinks and faucets come in so many different shapes, sizes, and budgets. Trying to find ‘the best’ one for your van can feel overwhelming.

We did a lot of research to find the perfect sink and faucet for our camper van ad we love what we have.

RV Sink


Do You want to know more details about RV sink & faucet?

Best Sink For RVs - Ruvati RV Sink Review

Looking for the best RV sink for your camper van? We understand all the different choices can feel overwhelming. In this article, we discuss what makes an ideal sink for mobile homes and why we believe the Ruvati RV sink deserves your attention.

The Best Camper Van Faucet – Breeze Through Dish Duty!

A functional faucet is an underestimated component in a RV kitchen. With over two years in our camper van, we believe we have one of the best faucets for van life.

3. Hot Water Shower System Installation

Outdoor Shower Plumbing Diagram For Camper Vans

What You Need (Product List)

Step 1: Water Tank Region

Water Tank Diagram With Accessories

Fresh & Grey Water Tanks

These water tanks are made to be used, abused, and to withstand harsh environments of camper van life. Made from high-grade polyethylene, these containers are odorless, tasteless, corrosion resistant, and rust proof.

Because they are rectangular in shape, they’re also space efficient.

Inside and/or Outside Installation

One of the best advantages of this style of water tanks is that you have the option of installing these tanks either inside your camper or under your vehicle’s chassis (under mount).

Having your water tank mounted outside means greater space efficiency, but you won’t be able to use the tank if you’re traveling in below-freezing temperatures.

Inside tanks are convenient and great for winter travel, but they do take up valuable interior space.

10 Gallons Inside Use Water Tank

10 Gallons Under Mount Water Tank

Water Tank Sizes

The ideal water tank size is ultimately up to how much water you use on a daily basis.

In our case, we’re quite stingy with our water usage and use about 2 gallons of fresh water per day for cooking and cleaning.

Water Tank Accessories

One of the most frustrating aspects of installing a water tank like these is getting all the correct fittings.

In a standard water tank, there are 4 connections to make

Good To Know: We did a ton of water tank research and the easiest tanks to work with are the "Spouted Water Tanks" from Class A Customs.

How To Fill A RV Water Tank

First you’ll need a hose. We carry a 25 ft. long expandible hose in our van. It’s space efficient, lightweight, and the walls are surprisingly strong.

Second, with your hose, you have the option of connecting straight to the water tanks or you can connect the hose to a water inlet port, which you can install on the side of your van. This can make filling your tanks easier without having to open any door to bring the hose inside.

For more specific help with RV water tanks, check out the Water Tank Help Guide from Class A Customs.

Step 2: Water Pump Region

Water Pump Region in Camper Van Water System and Plumbing Diagram

What You Need

Water Pump

Just like with our sink & faucet installation diagram, we use another 12-volt pump to bring water from the water tank to the shower head.

The water pump will need to be connected to a battery to function. We talk more about how to do this in our electrical system guide.

12-Volt Water Pump

Pump Accessories
  • Water pump silencing kit: Helps to reduce pump vibration and soften the noise.
  • Pump filter: Takes out grit and other impurities in the water before they enter the pump.
  • Water accumulator: Lengthens the water pump’s lifespan by helping it to work less (less pulsation & cycling). This is an optional add-on.

Step 3: Water Heater Region

Water Heater Installation Diagram

What You Need

PEX Pipe + Fittings

Just like with our sink & faucet installation in our van, we used PEX pipe and the relevant fittings to make the connections from the water pump to the water heater.

PEX is lightweight, flexible, easy to install, and works with both cold and hot water.

1/2" PEX Pipes

To build a plumbing system using PEX pipes, you’ll need:

Water Heater

Having a hot water boiler in an RV is a very nice luxury to have, but it’ll mean having to carry additional battery capacity or propane in order to heat your water.

Mini-Tank Water Heater: Bosch Tronic 2.5 Gallon – This water tank heater is a popular option for those building their own camper plumbing system. However, you’ll need decent battery capacity and at least a 3000VA Inverter to power it.

Tankless Water Heater: Camplux Propane Water Heater – This water heater was made for campers and RVs in mind as it comes with a built in shower head and hose. However, having a propane water heater takes up more space than an electric heater and you’ll need a larger propane tank if you plan to use your heater often.

Mini-Tank Water Heater

Tankless Water Heater

Shower Head

Because water is precious in a camper van, we selected a shower head with an on/off switch that is built into the handle of the shower head.

Shower Head (with switch)

FREE Plumbing Guide eBook

4. Planning Your Water System Build

The first step in building your own plumbing system is to plan. And I can’t understate this enough.

The better you plan ahead at this stage, the easier your installation will be down the road.

And trust us here. Without adequate preplanning, assembling your own water system can be a headache!

There are two main areas to plan for.

1 - Get product dimensions

RV Water Tank Dimensions

You’ll often be able to find each product’s dimensions online. Since most of our purchases were on Amazon, locating the dimensions on each product’s Amazon page was straightforward.

On each product’s listing page, product dimensions are often displayed either in the images section, the product details section, or sometimes you can do a quick “dimensions” search in the Q/A section near the bottom.

2 - Plan your interior furniture dimensions to fit products

Complete Camper Van Floor Plan Design (Side View)
Sizing our furniture to fit our water system products

Next, based on these product dimensions, design your interior furniture to fit each product.

In our Camper Van Floor Plan & Interior Layout post, we discussed how you can use any simple drawing software to create an accurate, proportioned outline of our interior furniture.

Above, you can see our own digital sketch and how we planned ahead and designed our back benches and kitchen counter to fit our two fresh water tanks, grey water tank, and sink.       

Our sink and fresh & grey water tanks are shaded in TURQUOISE.
Our 10 gallon water tank is shaded in DARK BLUE.

Free Camper Van Floor Plan Creator

Van ConversionFloor Plan Guide: Create Your Own Layout

In this article, we discuss some of the points to think about when designing your own DIY camper van layout and some of the strategies that we used when we did our own campervan conversion.

5. RV Toilet Plumbing

Integrating a toilet into a camper’s plumbing system is tricky and potentially messy. Plus, it involves having to install a separate black water tank that is separate from the grey water tank.

If at all possible, we recommend going with a self-contained toilet, like the Nature’s Head composting toilet or the Thetford Porta Potti. Toilets like these make dumping the sewage easier and more manageable.

In our case, we don’t have a toilet in our van. This has allowed us to free up space in our van and keep our camper free of strange odors. Instead, we use old water bottles (and a pee funnel for her) and public toilets when a #2 comes calling.

Van Life Toilets – Do You Need Them? We Don’t!

In this article, we will discuss why we decided NOT to have a toilet in our campervan. And after 2 years on the road, never once did we regret our decision.

6. How To Clean & Sanitize A RV Water System

Once every 3-4 months, we like to sanitize our water & plumbing system by flushing chlorine solution through our water tanks, pipes, and pump.

Water Tank Sanitization Steps

  1. Prepare a chlorine solution by mixing ¼ cup of household, unscented bleach with one gallon of water.
  2. You will need one gallon of this chlorine solution for each 15 gallons of tank capacity.
  3. Never pour pure bleach directly into your water tanks
  4. Pour the diluted chlorine solution into your water tank and fill the remaining capacity with water.
  5. Turn on water pump and allow chlorine solution to sit in the pipes.
  6. Allow the solution to sit in the water tank and pipes for 3 hours.
  7. After 3 hours, drain and flush with fresh water

Watch Our Camper Van Water System Video

In our van tour video above, we skip directly to our campervan’s water system. Here we talk about our sink and faucet installation and give a quick look at what’s under the sink.

Hope you enjoy!

Did You Know? This post is Part 1 of our 4-part DIY Plumbing Series. Check below to view the entire series.

Scroll to Top