By Bob Difley
Though we dealt with water in last week’s post we did not answer the question of what to do with waste water from the sinks and shower (the somewhat yucky part) or with black water from the toilet (the really yucky part). So bear up and let’s face it now.
The main difference between boondocking and hookups regarding waste tanks is the length of time the yucky stuff stays in the tanks. Hookups, very short. Boondocking, long.
That means that when boondocking you should:
- Monitor the levels of each tank.
- Have an idea of the tank levels just to affirm that your gauges are correct.
- Determine how fast your tanks are filling and how much time you have left before you need to dump.
- Install a venturi-type roof vent (photo) to your black water tank to extract odors. No chemicals needed.
- Move to a dump station before your gray tank bubbles up into your shower.
- Use conservation habits to empty as little into your holding tanks as possible.
- Dump your tanks into a portable holding tank (sometimes called a Blue Boy – see photo) and transport it to a dump station rather than moving your whole rig. If you are in a no-hook-up campground with a dump station, you can tow the Blue Boy for short distances. The difficulty is loading a full tank into the bed of your pick-up or the trunk of your dingy.
The other trick for extending your boondocking days between runs to the dump station requires new ways to deal with water usage. The black water tank will not likely be the limiting factor to your boondocking days since the gray tank fills faster. Other than the amount of water you use to flush the toilet (be conservative) the emphasis should be put on the gray tank. Using the tips in last week’s post on conserving the use of water will naturally also put less into your gray tank.
Some other ways to reduce the flow into you gray tank include:
- Wipe all food off dishes and pans before washing so food does not get into your wash water.
- Wash dishes in plastic dishpan and when finished dump on a thirsty plant.
- Rinse dishes collecting water also in a plastic tub and also pour on a tree or plant.
- Save water in a bucket or tub when running shower to warm it up and use to flush toilet.
- Fill a Sun Shower from a stream or lake and use for outside showers.
- Never leave a faucet running into a sink and then into the drain to the tank. Always collect running water and use for other things, like for brushing teeth, cooking spaghetti, making coffee, drinking, etc.
You may wonder about the ethical or legal consequences of pouring your used gray water out on the ground or on a bush. This is always a subject of debate among boondockers and does not have simple black and white answers. After contacting the Arizona office of the BLM on this question, I received the following reply:
. . . if the gray water creates a hazard or a nuisance a Law Enforcement Officer can cite (or in extreme circumstances arrest) an individual. This would go beyond simple gray water dumping, and the citation would likely be for some other offense related to degradation of resources or public health and safety issues. Law Enforcement Officers in the field have discretion in applying the laws and regulations . . .
You can read a more complete discussion of gray water dumping in my previous blog. Bottom line–discretion and common sense. And don’t just dump a full tank out on the ground, as if that had to be said.
Check out my website for more RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts, and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Buck.
By Bob Difley
Containment of gray water from the shower and sink is the weak link in the chain of methods we boondockers use to lengthen our stay between trips to replenish resources or discharge waste. These trips, where we have to pack up, put all the stuff that has accumulated on counter tops and outside, back in their storage places and drive–often several miles–to a dump or water filling station, are a disagreeable disruption to our camping trip, often taking half a day or more to accomplish.
I am a first-time travel trailer owner, having recently purchased a several-owner used 1973 Go-Tag-Along. I can only find one waste water dump valve, which is located on the larger waste pipe directly beneath the toilet. Another smaller diameter pipe is connected below that T-handle, so whenever I run the shower or the two sinks the water does not appear to go to a gray water holding tank, but discharges below the black water valve. Is it possible that there is a gray water holding tank with some other type of shutoff device?
Sam Pennartz, (Wyoming, PA)