How Do You Dispose of Greywater When Camping?

6 min read

Many of us do not follow grey water discussions. As such, we might not know that it’s wrong to dump it on the ground, and even if we do, most of us don’t know how to dispose of it correctly.

Now, campers will always have grey water, whether it’s from washing the dishes or bathing. It’s, therefore, essential that they learn the correct way of disposing of it correctly.

However, there’s no standard disposal rule for grey water. Instead, every state and campground has its own rules on what to do with this water.

Some places allow individuals to dump it on the ground or plants, while other places restrict this practice, and you can even be fined for doing it. So how do you dispose of grey water when camping?

Read on to find that out.

What Is Grey Water?

Before we get into the ‘how’ it’s essential that we start our discussion from this point. Grey water is gently used water from kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and laundry. Compared to black water, grey water is relatively clean. But note that different states may define greywater differently.

For instance, some states do not consider kitchen sink water as greywater because of the food particles, fat, and oil it has.

Generally, greywater can mean any water drained from the house except toilet water. Although greywater looks dirty, it doesn’t have to be disposed of always into the sewage system. It could be repurposed and used for other things like yard irrigation.

Is It Legal to Dump Grey Water on the Ground?

Well, the only federal land management agency that allows the dumping of greywater is the BLM. As such, individuals can empty their gray tanks on the ground in these areas. However, campgrounds or recreational centers managed by the BLM may prohibit the dumping of greywater, depending on the case.

But, if you are caught dumping grey water holding tanks into the toilets, the stream, or ground, you may have to face the law. Those found with this crime may pay fines, depending on the law they’ve broken and the officer.

While you can’t dump your RV grey water anywhere, there are various ways you can empty yours, which we shall talk about. But first, let’s see why you shouldn’t dump grey water on the ground, whether or not it is legal.

Why Is Grey Water Dumping Harmful?

Even in places where dumping greywater is not restricted, it is still not a good practice to do so. Grey water has several adverse effects on the ground.

It should thus be processed and treated as it can prevent the soil’s ability to absorb water. Note that greywater contains oils and lipids, especially that from the kitchen sink. When dumped on the ground, the soil can absorb these fats and lipids, which creates a barrier that makes it hard for water to penetrate. Greywater also has other organic matter that can cause the same effect.

Additionally, this water contains compounds that can change the soil characteristics. The compounds can alter the pH level of the soil, which can make it dry. As such, good healthy soil can turn into unhealthy if not checked. This, therefore, prevents plants from growing in that area.

Again, when greywater reaches the lakes, rivers, ponds, and other natural water bodies, it can promote algae bloom since it has a high amount of phosphates. This can change the ecosystem’s natural balance. For instance, it could kill the fish. Also, there are some types of algae that are dangerous even to human beings.

Moreover, greywater smells bad, and apart from that, it’s harmful to the local wildlife. Note that when animals eat food scraps from grey water or drink this water, it can affect their health as it contains chemicals. And for RV campers, dumping grey water while still in that area can attract dangerous animals that you don’t want near your site.

How to Dispose of Greywater

If your RV is fitted with a tank, the best thing will be to collect the water and once full, empty it into a dump station. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be difficult to find. Most parks have a dump station you can use for a small fee. So even if you’re not camping at an RV park, you can still dispose of water in this station.

Additionally, you can find a gas station, truck stop, or rest areas with a dump station for free or at a fee. You can also check with your local sewage treatment facility, whether they have a dump station.

But we should mention that if your RV has a grey water tank, make sure that it can match your freshwater supply. But this might be a bit tricky since most RV manufacturers fit an undersized tank or don’t fit one at all in the RVs.

Nevertheless, it can be very inconvenient being forced to pack up or leave a camping ground early since your greywater tank is full.

If you have a well-sized holding tank, you can let the water run into a bucket or store it into a portable tote for a day or two, then take it to a designated dump station.

What If You Don’t Have a Tank?

If you don’t have a water tank and are in an area that doesn’t restrict grey water dumping, you can still dump your water responsibly. First, try to dispose of it within four hours to prevent massive bacteria build up. Then follow these tips:

  • Collect your greywater into a bucket, then pour it into a nearby plant. Make sure that you choose a different plant each time you want to empty.
  • Before washing your dishes, remove all excess food before washing. This will way, you will not risk wild animal’s health should they eat the food.
  • Dump far away from the campsite as greywater tends to have an odor, which can be uncomfortable for you and your neighbors.
  • When you can’t dump on a plant, you can invest in a portable tote. Once it’s full, you can take it to a disposable location or a nearby dump point.

What About Those with a Drainage Hose Attached to the Tank?

Well, if this is your case, make sure that the drainage hose is long so that it can carry water far away from your campsite and your neighbors’. Also, if you can, place it at a tree’s base and move it around other plants or trees. Additionally, you can put a sock at the hose’s end to prevent food particles from escaping. Alternatively, you can use a CHUX cloth.

If you plan to run the water on the ground that doesn’t have grass, dig a small hole and direct it there. But remember to fill the hole back in once you leave.
Grey Water Tricks and Tips for RV Life

As we’ve mentioned, most manufacturers design greywater RV tanks with limited capacity. Therefore, most times, they will be full long before you finish the freshwater tank. Thus, learn how to minimize the amount of greywater going into your tank.

Here are some tips for that:

1. Buy a Sewer Cap with a Hose Connection

You can use this device to dispose of greywater. In legal areas or with a ranger’s permission, you can drain greywater into the ground. However, make sure that you dig a hole and use a thick cloth or sock to filter out food particles. Also, if there’s an approved sewer pump, you can use this device to route greywater.

2. Invest in a Dish Pan

You will put this pan under your RV kitchen sink. And when you are done with washing your dishes, you can consider these four disposal methods rather than sending the water into your grey tank;

  • Use it to water a bush, if it’s legal
  • Quench the evening fire with it
  • Dump into the toilet via the black tank
  • Pour it in a bucket and flush the toilet with it, but make sure that you filter all food particles first

Bear in mind that the black tank holds more water and doesn’t fill up as quickly as the grey tank. As such, you can make use of the “extra” space. Plus, the soapy dishwater helps keep your black tank clean. However, make sure that you are using a biodegradable soap if you’ll run your dishwater on the ground.

3. Buy an Aerated Showerhead

To reduce your water usage, invest in an aerated showerhead. It uses less water compared to the one that RV manufacturers install in the vehicle. Using less water means that less wastewater will be going into your RV grey tank. However, ensure that it has an on and off button to give you more control.

4. Recycle your Greywater

Recycling is the best greywater tip. But, you’ll need to have a pump and filter to draw your wastewater first. You can use this water to rinse your toilet instead of your freshwater.

5. Spray Your Dishes

Before washing your dishes, spray them using a spray bottle filled with water, dish soap, and vinegar. This will reduce the amount of water you’ll use to finish washing them.

Victoria Miller

I'm the founder of NTT. I live in Miami, Florida, and enjoy learning everything there is to know about tiny spaces.