Water = the giver of life, liquid of the Gods, precious gem of the universe. We tend to take it for granted, especially when it’s so easily reachable by the handy tap that magically purveys it into your house.
All that changes when you move into an RV, especially if you “dry-camp” or “boondock” (i.e. camp without direct water hook-ups) for any length of time. We’ve developed a renewed appreciation for this wonderful resource over our past year of RVing and although we started off as relative amateurs we have now become avid water-conservationists and Masters of the Tap. No longer do we blow through our 100 gallon water tank in a few days, but find that it now easily stretches to 2 weeks and could probably go longer with a little extra effort. In going RVing we’ve gone “water-green” and here’s the low-down for others looking to do the same:
How Much Water do you Really Need?
The average westernized person uses ~123 gallons (466 liters) of water/day at home (per The World Almanac). That’s an astounding amount of water and you wouldn’t last a day as a dry-camp RVer with that usage. Most of the waste goes to flushing the toilet, long showers and washing dishes. In reality a gallon/day of water will cover essential needs while 2 gallons/day should cover basic needs. We use just a couple of straight-forward conservation methods and run ~3.5 gallons/person/day. If we’re feeling luxurious and going all-out (full showers and all) we’ll use ~8 gallons/person/day. Any RVer should be able to do just fine on 4 gallons/person/day going down to 2 gallons/person/day for the more conservative lot.
Water conservation is really pretty basic stuff. Don’t let the taps run, use less to flush the loo, use any local camp facilities and so forth, but here’s a few extra tips that help the mobile mover as well:
1. Dishes -> Wipe before you wash. When you wash your dishes, do a quick wipe with a paper towel to get off excess grease & bits before you put them in the sink, then save up your dishes so you only wash once/day. When washing do a sponge-on in a tub, and quick rinse off after. Never let the tap run.
One Step Further: Some people go further on this one by using disposable paper plates & cups which they trash at every meal (and thus avoid clean-up altogether). We prefer our real china and don’t like the excess trash, but it’s another idea for those who need it.
2. Loo Flushing -> Less is more. When flushing out the toilet a quick flush does just as well as a longer one. Some people keep a pail of external water handy and use that. Others only flush for #2′s. If you’re at a campground that has an on-site toilet, using the camp facilities obviously helps to save your tanks.
One Step Further: If you’re way “out there” using the great outdoors and pooing in the wild (as long as it’s done properly) can also be a big saver. You don’t need much to cut back on this one.
3. Bathing -> Go Navy-style or get out the sponge. If you’ve ever backpacked any length of time you know it doesn’t take much to get you clean. If you use the shower in the RV, the simplest thing is to go Navy-style and turn off the shower while you’re “lathering up”. Then, just rinse and dry. If you want to conserve further ditch the shower and use a sink/pail of water with a sponge or wash-cloth. Sponge, lather, sponge and dry. If you’re out boondocking in the wild it can be quite romantic to do this outside with your partner .
One Step Further: For the ultra-conservationist, baby wipes will do the job on all the “necessary bits” and they’ve kept me usably clean while backpacking many-a-time.
4. Washing Hands -> Switch to hand sanitizer. We waste a lot of precious water by washing our hands. So, instead of running the tap, buy a hand sanitizer dispenser and use that instead.
5. Brushing Teeth -> Use a cup. Instead of letting water run for brushing teeth, put some water in a cup and use that instead.
6. Drinking -> Get a portable container. Drinking water is the one area where you don’t want to conserve unless you’re absolutely forced to. So, drink as much as you fancy and supplement it with an external, portable container. We have a plastic 5-gallon jug that we fill-up before we go off. You can buy collapsible containers too.
7. Recycle -> Re-use your grey water. For those folks looking to extend even more you can re-use your grey water. When you wash the dishes, cook your veggies or brush your teeth, save that water and use it to flush the loo.
As you get more savvy in water-conservation you’ll find yourself limited much more by your grey tank (your waste water) filling up, than how quickly you use the main water tank. There are lots of ways to “stretch your tanks”, as we’ve covered previously, but in the end good water conservation is good for everyone, and with a little bit of creativity it can even be fun too.