Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink… sometimes when you are off-grid camping in an RV it can feel that way. You may be camped right next to a beautiful ocean vista, alongside a picturesque stream, or on the edge of a gorgeous lake – but even where pure fresh water is available, most will still be restricted by the quantity of fresh water (and waste water) that they can carry in their on board tanks. Those who do not always camp with access to water and waste hook ups will always be looking for ways to save water in their RV.
One example of a beautiful waterside RV camping location – but do you have enough water on board to meet your needs?
Why Save Water in an RV?
Saving water in an RV can, of course, prolong the period for which you can camp off grid. It will give more flexibility with regard to boondocking destinations. What is more, of course, learning how to save water in your RV can allow you to go greener, and make your adventures more eco-friendly.
If you are simply on holiday in your RV, you may be able to muddle through for a few days without water being too much of a concern. If, on the other hand, you live in your RV, or are using your RV as a prepping bug out vehicle, then water is likely to be a far more pressing concern.
General Tips For Saving Water in an RV
The first stage in water conservation should always be to look at how you might be able to expand your water carrying capacity, or source water from the external environment in sustainable ways.
Sometimes it can feel like it never stops raining when you are travelling in your RV. Why not take advantage of that and collect the water with a rainwater harvesting system?
Consider a Rainwater Harvesting System
One of the wonderful ways to make an RV more sustainable is to install some sort of rainwater harvesting system. There are a number of different ways to collect the rainwater that falls on the roof of your RV, which can then be purified for use as drinking water, used to run sinks or showers, or to water plants, if you have a container garden or grow your own food in your RV.
Consider Installing a Greywater System
Whether or not it is also linked to a rainwater harvesting system, greywater systems are another option for sustainable RV owners who want to go greener. An integrated greywater system will allow you to cycle water drained from sinks and shower and use it to flush your toilet.
Consider Getting Equipment to Purify Water from the Natural Surroundings
A water purifier is a must-have piece of equipment for anyone prepping for a natural or man-made catastrophe, and can be a helpful thing to have if you spend a lot of time in an RV in wilderness locations, off-grid. One of these can allow you to purify water from a natural source for your RV camping needs.
Another general tip to help you save water in your RV is to upgrade your water pump.
Upgrade Your Water Pump
While upgrading your water tanks and opting for larger sizes may be impossible, many RV owners can consider upgrading their water pump. An inefficient or poorly functioning water pump can mean that you have to turn taps further to get sufficient pressure, and can mean water that arrives in fits and starts and often gets wasted. Getting a better water pump cannot only help in efforts to save water, it can help you save energy in your RV too.
Saving Water in an RV Bathroom
Much of the water used in a typical RV is used in the bathroom. Here are some tips to help you cut down on the amount of fresh water that you go through in this part of your RV.
Consider Replacing the Existing Toilet With a Low-Flow Model
The flushing of a toilet accounts for a huge amount of water waste in an RV. Fortunately, there are many low-flow flushing toilets on the market that can allow you to reduce the amount of water that you literally flush away.
Consider Installing a Composting Toilet To Replace a Flushing Toilet
Another, more radical option is to consider doing away with a flushing toilet altogether and opting to install a composting toilet in your RV. Composting toilets do not require any water at all, and could be the greenest choice.
Consider Replacing Your Shower Head/Faucets for Lower Flow
One final thing to consider is replacing your existing shower head and faucets with lower flow options. Faucets with aerators fitted, and shower heads designed to conserve water will waste less water and can make minor savings in water that can make a surprisingly big difference over time.
Even if you do not have the funds to consider one of the above options, there are still things that you can do in your existing RV to save water in the bathroom. For example:
Flush Less Frequently
You may be familiar with the phrase ‘if it is yellow, let it mellow…’ While you may initially have a negative reaction to this – flushing less frequently could be a great way to reduce the burden on your RV’s water system. Of course, flushing less frequently could also involve using toilets external to your RV, or even opting to go outdoors…(in a responsible manner, of course).
Turn off the Tap While Brushing or Shaving
If you actually take a long hard look at how you behave in your bathroom, you may be surprised by the amount of water that you waste. For example, an astonishing number of people leave the tap running while brushing their teeth or shaving. Cut this out and the water you save will quickly add up.
Turn off that tap when you are not collecting the water!
Heat Hot Water Only To the Temperature Required For a Shower
A lot of the water wasted when showering is wasted in mixing hot and cold water to reach the required temperature. One fix or this is to make sure that the hot water is heated only to the temperature that you require for your shower, and not to maximum temperature.
Take Fewer, Shorter Showers
A hot shower can be a wonderful thing. But showers can use a shocking amount of water. One of the easiest and simplest ways to reduce water use in an RV is simply to take fewer showers, and to reduce the length of those you do take. Cleanliness is of course less important when you are out in the wilds anyway… but anything that you can do to reduce the number of showers you take can help conserve water.
Skip Showers and Wipe Clean Instead
One way to reduce the number of showers you need to take is to opt for the occasional sponge bath or wipe clean instead of a full head to toe immersion. If you do decide to use wipes, however, remember that many wet wipes on the market are plastic – posing a waste problem and harming the environment. Opt for eco-friendly, biodegradable wet wipes instead.
Use a Dry Shampoo Rather Than Washing Your Hair
Washing hair can be a particularly water intensive activity. You can save water by washing your hair over the sink rather than taking a full shower. Of course you could also consider cutting off those tresses to save on water. However, if you really want to conserve water, but don’t want to sacrifice your long hair, you could consider skipping washes and using a dry shampoo instead. You do not need to buy expensive dry shampoo products. Combing bicarbonate of soda or corn starch through your hair is an eco-friendly and low cost solution.
Use a Plug to Capture Water as You Shower
When you do shower, using a plug in the base, or using a container to catch run off water can also help reduce water waste and conserve water. This water could later be used to flush the toilet. Especially you use eco-friendly products in the shower, this water could also potentially be used for other purposes.
Place a Container in the Base of the Sink to Catch Greywater
The same principle can be used to collect the water that would usually be wasted down the drain of your bathroom sink. Use a container (or simply retain the water with a plug) and you can use it for rinsing a razor, or other purposes.
Consider Natural, Al Fresco Bathing Options
Sometimes, an option to reduce the amount of water you require for showering or bathing in your RV is to get closer to nature. A dip in a waterfall or pure mountain stream may sometimes be all that you require. It can help you get closer to nature and find a sense to peace and tranquillity too.
A natural shower could be an exhilarating experience.
Simplify Your Bathroom Cleaning Regime
One final thing to consider regarding water use in your RV bathroom is how you go about cleaning the space. Rather than splashing water around to clean surfaces, use simple, natural cleaning products and cloths for a more water-wise and eco-friendly solution.
Saving Water in an RV Kitchen
As in an RV bathroom, as well as considering installing a greywater system to make use of the water draining from your kitchen sink, you can also use a basin or tub to collect the water from the kitchen tap. In addition, here are some other tips to help you save water in your RV kitchen:
Do Not Leave the Tap Running While Washing Up
As in the bathroom, leaving the tap running while you are doing things is a no-no. Make sure you have a washing up bowl and do not allow water to run away down the drain while you are doing the washing up.
Scrape and Wipe Plates Before Washing Up
Washing up is usually a necessity. However, you can significantly cut down on the amount of water required by pre-processing plates and utensils before you wash them. Scraping waste food away, and wiping them over with kitchen paper or cloth before you wash them with water can really cut down on water use.
Washing dishes that are already mostly clean is far quicker and uses far less water.
Cook Simple, One-Pot (or Even No Pot) Dishes to Save on Washing Up
Another way to reduce the amount of water used for washing up is to reduce the amount of washing up that you create in the first place. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to enjoy cold meals such as sandwiches, grilled barbecue goodies, or one-pot wonders that involve far fewer cooking pots and utensils.
Consider Cooking For More than One Meal at the Same Time
Another way to reduce the amount of washing up that you have to do is to consider cooking food for more than one meal at the same time (in the same pot, perhaps). Bulk cooking sessions can save on washing up, save energy, and save time. You’ll spend less time on chores and more time enjoying your RV adventures.
Consider Eco-Friendly Disposable Plates
Many people turn to disposable plates in order to reduce the amount of washing up that there is to do. Of course, while this may be a solution for RV vacations, it will be less useful for those living in an RV full time. If you do opt to buy in some disposable plates, please do check that the ones you are buying are a green and sustainable choice – go for eco-friendly, biodegradable ones rather than styrofoam or other plastic options that will end up in landfill.
Reuse Water Used for Boiling To Wash Dishes
One final tip to save water in your RV kitchen is to re-use the water from boiling to wash your dishes. Often, the water used to boil vegetables can be reused to wash dishes with no ill-effect. It can certainly be used at the soaping stage, and even if dishes still need a quick rinse – the overall amount of water used will still be significantly reduced.
These tips should have given you plenty of inspiration to help you save water in your RV. The more water you save, the better it will be for your freedom to roam, your wallet, and the planet.
Elizabeth Waddington has an MA from St. Andrews University and a Permaculture Design Certificate. She is a green living consultant, with a passion for sustainable travel, permaculture and the natural world. She lives in rural Fife, just north of Edinburgh, close to the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.
No stranger to RV travel, Elizabeth has travelled all over Scotland, the UK and beyond in search of natural wonders in her RV. Her camping adventures have taken her to the Grand Canyon, up the Pacific Coast of the US, to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons and to explore the wonders of Utah. She has travelled extensively in the Pacific Northwest, and around New England. In Europe, she has taken trips through much of the western part of the continent, travelled up to Norway, and down through Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul. She looks forward to further eco-friendly adventures.