In a world with an ever-increasing population, water conservation is already a worthwhile and important mission. We all need water to live — and although we can always make more human beings, we’ve got a finite amount of water on the planet.
But if you need a more immediate reason to save water, look no further than your motorhome. Because if you want to get off-grid and do some real wilderness camping, or “boondocking,” without hookups, you’re going to have to become a water-saving ninja.
That’s because your RV’s plumbing system is made up of holding tanks, which keep your fresh and waste water stored while you’re living it up topside. But those tanks can only hold so much, which means that fresh water — or the need to dump your waste — is likely to become a limiting factor when it comes to the length of your camping trip.
If you don’t want to be forced to pull up and move prematurely, you’re going to need to be careful with the H2O.
But fortunately, clever campers have come up with a ton of water conservation methods and tips on saving water to help keep everything flowing smoothly (get it?) when you’re on the road.
Here’s some of our best advice on how to save water when you’re on the road — and, heck, around the sticks-and-bricks house when you’re stuck at home, too.
Water Conservation Facts
Before we dive into the best water-saving tips we know, you may be wondering, why should we conserve water in the first place? What makes it so important for RVers? Can’t you just find a potable water source pretty much anywhere?
Well, the answer to that last question answers the others — and unfortunately, it’s a negative.
Many of the best campsites you’ll come across are totally wild landscapes with no hookups in sight, which means that whatever you arrive with in your freshwater tank is what you’ve got to last you through your camping trip.
Think for a second about how many ways you use water every day. You might surprise yourself with how often you turn on the tap if you stop to really think about it! You need water for drinking, of course, but also for cooking, washing dishes, showering, hygiene, and flushing the toilet.
Next, consider the fact that the average American uses 20 gallons per day in the shower alone — and that your RV’s tank is likely only around 40 or 50 gallons.
See why it’s so important to conserve water now?
Ways to Save Water
Figuring out how to conserve water in your RV isn’t that much different than it is when you focus on saving water at home — although it might be more intense, since you’re limited by a finite tank space rather than merely your own self-discipline.
Start with the most obvious stuff: don’t leave the tap running while you’re soaping up your hands or brushing your teeth, for instance. And get familiar with taking what you may have heard called a “military shower” — that is, turning off the water while you’re shampooing or soaping up, using it only when you need to rinse off suds.
In fact, depending on who you’re traveling with and your level of comfort, you may want to avoid showering entirely. Don’t worry, there are ways around that becoming a smelly situation, which we’ll get to in a moment.
How to Save Water in the Kitchen
Although showering and brushing your teeth might be the first things that spring to mind when you think about conserving water, you might be surprised at how much of your usage takes place in the kitchen.
From cooking meals to cleaning up afterward, we rely on our kitchen sinks a lot. That’s why it’s so important to find ways of conserving water during food preparation.
Fortunately, most of the best ways to conserve water here also make your life easier with regard to the cooking and cleanup itself. Here are some of our favorite simple tricks:
- Focus on meals that don’t require many dishes to cook, or even meals that don’t require any cooking whatsoever. Think one-pot stews, sandwiches, or anything on the grill. Psst — here are a few of our go-to RV recipes.
- Keep conserving once the meal is made by serving it on disposable paper dishware. Of course, this isn’t necessarily the best option for the planet, especially if you’re using styrofoam, so make sure to use compostable or biodegradable disposables whenever possible.
- Save the washing up for when you get home. If you’re only boondocking for a few days, you can bring a cooler or other tightly-sealed containers to place any dirty dishes, and also laundry, into. Not only will you not use as much water, you won’t spend any of your vacation slaving away doing chores!
- Don’t drink it! Of course, we’re not recommending you don’t stay hydrated — that’s very important! But instead of relying on your RV’s fresh water tank for your drinking water, bring a separate jug (or two) of potable water for each member of your party. You can even refrigerate it ahead of time to make sure it’s nice and refreshing, and you won’t be limited by even the tiniest of tanks.
These practices, combined with limiting the flow speed of the water when you do turn on the tap, will help you make great strides at conserving your fresh water.
But there are even more ways to save!
How to Save Water in the Bathroom
Obviously, 30-minute, singalong showers are out of the picture. But here are a few more ways to save water in the bathroom that you might not have already considered.
- Skip the shower entirely. Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t want to take a bath? Now’s your chance to be the rebel mom never let you be. If you’re camping in a fairly temperate area and you won’t be there for long, you might be surprised at how well you can make out without taking a shower in the first place — especially if you make use of alternative clean-up items like dry shampoo and baby wipes.
- Carry hand sanitizer. It’s a great alternative to continually washing your hands.
- Flush with care. We all know the old saying: If it’s yellow, let it mellow. (I’ll leave the rest to your own recollection.) Again, depending on how close you are with your fellow campers, this is a good way to save water by minimizing flushes. And when you do flush the toilet, be aware of how much water you’re using to do so. Use only the minimum amount required, and make use of the toilet brush to dislodge any, uh, stubborn waste rather than trying to wash it down with water alone.
- Consider reusing your gray water in the toilet. The gray water is the wastewater from your shower and sinks — in short, soapy water that doesn’t contain any human waste. If you do have a load of dishes to do, you could wash them in a tub and then use the leftover soapy water to flush your toilet with, thus limiting the total amount of fresh water used.
If you follow these tips, you could easily last at least a weekend, and perhaps even a week, in a dry camp situation — perhaps even longer, if you’re really creative!
And as an added bonus, when you get home, you can keep using your new-found water conservation skills to help preserve one of the most important nonrenewable resources we all share.