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Conserving Water while Boondocking in your RV

I love a good hot shower.   When I go home to the sticks and bricks house in Dallas, Miss V has me all fixed up with some sort of dual head tropical rain forest shower head that is just luxurious.   I miss a great shower because I do not have water on site at our present job north of Newton, TX.  This is not the first time I have had to do without a convenient rv water supply for months on end.

A portable water supply when long term  boondocking is a necessity and those that boondock on a regular basis realize this. I can go about ten days with the 40 gallons the Fish Bus has onboard in the fresh water tank if I am by myself and if I am careful when dispensing the water. I have written about my portable 300 gallon water tank I use while boondocking in two previous posts:

Portable Water Supply for your RV

More on a Portable Water Supply for your RV

I will not go into the details of the equipment and technique I use for supplying water when I  boondock in this post. Check the links above for that.  I hate the 2.5 hour process to go and get water.  I usually procrastinate and wait till the 300 gallon portable tank is about empty and the tank on the Old Girl is sucking air… and it has rained 4″ and the whole thing is a sea of mud.  I just don’t like it PERIOD so I try and conserve water while boondocking as much as possible.no_water

When you read about water conservation on the RV internet forums, the first thing mentioned is a Navy shower.   A Navy shower is very simple.

  • Wet everything down.
  • Turn the water off.
  • Soap, scrub, shampoo and wash.
  • Turn the water on and rinse off.

I was already doing the Navy showers when we went to our first boondocking job with no water but I still felt I was using too much water so I began to examine where the water was going down the drain without being fully utilized.

The first stop was my Navy shower.  It took at least a minute to get the water temperature regulated and that water just went unused down the shower drain.  I bought a 2.5 gallon food grade white plastic bucket and I catch the wasted water in the bucket.   The water in the bucket can be used to rinse dishes,  flush the toilet many times or even prime the black water tank when you dump it.  ( I always put a few gallons of water in the black water tank after dumping to prevent the dreaded Pyramid of Doom.)

Now let’s take this shower thing a step farther.   I generally turn my propane water heater on once a day when I prepare for my shower.   I do take a shower every day!  Sometimes, after working,  it is entirely necessary.  If I just lay around all day, I still take a shower.  It just makes me feel better.   Ok, what if I did not have to “blend” the water to get the temperature just right?  That should save water, correct?  I found that if I turn on the hot water heater and wait approximately 12 minutes, the water temp is perfect if I just turn the hot water tap on in the shower.  In the summer, it is slightly less because the water is already tepid from the heating of the day.  In the winter, it may be several minutes longer if the weather is cold.  I have developed a knack for figuring out how long to time the water heater.  It is sorta like knowing how big a coat you need during the winter.

The second area identified as wasteful was washing dishes and I think this is where most people miss the boat when boondocking and trying to conserve water.   I am convinced washing a meals worth of dishes for two people may use as much as 7-10 gallons of water.  The rinsing is what gets you.  Even though I am solo most of the time and I eat alot of frozen dinners I am still fanatical about sanitation and cleanliness.  I never leave food out on the counter or dirty dishes in the sink overnight.  All manner of crawly bugs are waiting  for an invitation just outside the Old Girl and I have no intention of inviting them in.

The first thing I do when washing dishes is to have really hot water.  Hot water cuts the grease and crud quicker and it takes less water to get them clean.  Remember the white plastic bucket?    I use the catch water in it to temper the hot wash water. I also use it to rinse the clean dishes and utensils.  You could even take it a step further if you are into extreme boondocking and use the dish rinse water in the bucket to flush the toilet.   I don’t.  I figure enough is enough!

waterThat covers the major water conservation techniques I use while boondocking but I am going to add two caveats. In the summertime, I have to treat my 300 gallon portable ‘nurse’ tank with a pint of bleach to prevent algae growth. Even though I am filling it with treated city water, I still have to add the bleach. The bleach leaves a slight taste in my water. It makes my sweet tea taste like medicine and the bleachy ice cubes ruin my Jim Beam and Seven nightly toddy.  The second caveat is in regards to my wastewater tanks — in particular my black tank.  I am connected to septic here so I do not scrimp on the water that goes into my black tank.  If you start trying to conserve water in this area you will be sorry!  I always start off with 3-4 gallons of fresh water after I dump the black tank and I use plenty of water when flushing.  Water and more water is one of the key factors in a healthy wastewater management system.    One thing I cannot do is rinse my black tank after I dump it.  I have not rinsed it in over 9 months and yet it is still odor free.  That is the subject of a whole different series of posts that you can read here.

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1 comment to Conserving Water while Boondocking in your RV

  • LJ

    I am w/ you Andy, I can make 66 gallons of water last 7-10days by myself. However, my wife’s showers always seem to last longer when pumping H20 from the onboard supply, never thinking to turn the water off, soap up, then quick rinse. I can wash and rinse a sink full of dishes w/ a quart of water, I preheat a pan of water for the greasy items, and dole it out slowly. If after dark w/ others not around, a tree latrine works just fine for my basic water functions, thus saving the flush water.

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