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Hauling Water During Drought: What You Need to Know About Water Trucks

With the epic California drought heading into its fourth year, nearly the entire state is feeling the effects.

Tue November 03, 2015 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

With the epic California drought heading into its fourth year, nearly the entire state is feeling the effects, with areas of southern California hardest hit. With mandatory water restrictions finally in effect across the state, Californians are feeling the pinch. Now farmers and homeowners alike are scrambling to change their ways to meet the new requirements.

As a result of the chaos and historically dry conditions, water trucks have become a booming business in the state. Enterprising small business owners are converting their construction equipment into water trucks to haul water from cities like Fresno to farmers in the Central valley who are growing desperate to keep their plants — and business prospects — alive.

Operating a water truck can be lucrative business in the new, drought-driven economy. For example, CNBC reports that water hauler Neeley Keeney has given up construction entirely, instead using his 2,500-gallon water truck to make deliveries that bring him $250 to $500 a load.

Maintaining a Water Truck for Drought Hauling

With numbers like Keeney’s and no end in sight to the California drought, water hauling is a way to earn some serious money. Whether you plan to retrofit an existing construction vehicle with a tank or invest in a new or used water truck, make sure you know the basics about maintaining your machinery for safe hauling.

In addition to basic vehicle maintenance like regular oil changes, emissions checks and an inspection of tire pressure, break fluid and any body damage, water trucks require special attention to the storage tank and water moving systems. A preventive maintenance checklist includes a regular visual inspection of the following parts:

  • Check all hoses, nozzles and couplings in the water pump system. Make sure there are no leaks or cracks and tighten all connections.
  • Run the pumps and observe the chamber carefully for leaks. Listen for any loud sounds or unusual vibrations that could indicate a malfunction of some sort.
  • On the tank body, check all manhole covers, caps and locks for cracks. Make sure that each seals tightly and that all gaskets are intact and flexible. Be sure to check for paint chips and rust — it’s much easier to quickly touch up paint than to deal with eventual leaks from rust damage.
  • Test the exhaust bypass system by turning it on and off while running the truck. If this malfunctions, you can overheat the tank and cause serious damage to your water truck. If possible, run this test with a full water tank to avoid overheating.

Keeping Drinking Water Safe

Though most water trucks are being used to carry water to farmers for agricultural use, water haulers who carry drinking water need to take additional precautions to ensure that the water is clean and safe for human consumption. Before filling the water truck with potable water, it’s important to disinfect the tank. To do this, spray the tank interior with a .2 percent solution of chlorine bleach for a disinfecting rinse. Leave the tank closed for a minimum of four hours to allow the chlorine to work, then rinse the tank with drinking water before filling. Because water trucks are easily contaminated, these are important steps to follow before each haul of potable water.

Though the California drought is an unprecedented natural disaster, inventive entrepreneurs have found ways to put their water trucks to good use. If you are able to maintain a water truck throughout the drought, you could help drought-stricken farmers and earn a tidy sum by hauling water to those who need it most.

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