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Old 12-14-2015, 06:42 AM   #1
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1992 29' Excella
Van By The River , Georgia
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,300
Dish Water, Shower Water, Gray Water...

This subject relates to boondocking so I decided to put the thread in that category. If it's been addressed previously I apologize.

For this thread let's presume you are in an area that you know does not allow dumping of gray water on the ground. Whether you agree with that or not doesn't matter. The local code, campground, ordinance, administrator, whatever has mandated that it's not permissible to dump gray water on the ground.

So my question is when does water become gray water? And related to that when does it become unacceptable to dump it on the ground?

Many RVers choose to capture their dish washing water and to a lesser extent their shower water and choose to dump it outside the RV. I'm going out on a limb here and saying many of us would do this, perhaps under the cover of darkness, and think it's okay. After all, tent campers in the same camping environment - particularly if it's remote camping - are doing the same thing. The forest ranger or similar authority may even turn a blind eye toward this practice.

But that's the same water that would have gone into a holding tank and certainly at that point would be... drum roll please.... GRAY WATER! and would most certainly not be allowed to be put on the ground.

I realize gray water accumulating in a tank for hours and days becomes rancid and foul smelling. But if you open your valve and let the water go directly on the ground in a continuous fashion the rancid, foul smell is avoided.

Back to the question. When does water we use become gray water and when is it permissible or not to dump it on the ground?

I'm not for or against any of the practices described above. I find it interesting that some RVers would never pull they gray valve and let water go on the ground but they don't mind throwing out a pan of dishwater. Similarly, administators of camping areas allow one practice but not the other.

Any comments?

Lucius and Danielle
1992 29' Excella Classic
1996 GMC Suburban C2500 7.4L
2005 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 8.1L
Got a cooped-up feeling, gotta get out of town, got those Airstream campin' blues...
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Old 12-14-2015, 07:09 AM   #2
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2006 22' Interstate
Normal , Illinois
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In my experience, dishwater and bath water are grey water, period. Once you have used water for any purpose, it is grey.

Pulling the plug on a full grey tank onto the ground is different than taking a basin and dumping it away from your site....which can be done when boondocking, in a remote NF site, etc.......unless it is specifically prohibited, which happens sometimes, particularly in bear country.

Signs then abound about the dangers of dishwater and scented anything on the ground attracting bears, and I have seen that diligently enforced by park rangers. Bear incidents in campgrounds often mean they have to be closed for awhile.

Where it's posted, it's prohibited, but I think "no dumping grey water" generally refers to opening the tank and letting it drain. Some signs are very specific, and some NF campgrounds provide dumping stations for those who need to do dishes, dump grey water, etc.

Other than where prohibited, it comes down largely to common sense and basic courtesy.

My thoughts.


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Old 12-14-2015, 07:35 AM   #3
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Gray water..the limiting factor

For me, the gray water tank filling is the limiting factor to how long i can boondock. On a couple other threads it was suggested to capture shower water in a pan, and empty this in the toilet. Also, dishwashing water can be placed in the black tank. So, one has, in my case, 76 gallons for waste water, covering the 54 gallons in the fresh water tank and the ten gallons of purified drinking water I carry.

As to dumping gray water, we can look at some examples of the railroads in the USA. Up until the mid 1990's Amtrak dumped liquified toilet waste, via a spray technique, on to the rails at speeds over 35 mph. Then when some folks below a railroad bridge were fishing in a creek and the spray come down on them, well, that was when it all came to a head..... no pun intended.

While I am unaware of any health problems as a result of the railroad operations, other than of course the fishermen, the public relations issue is large. And, for travel trailers, this may be another issue to be reckoned with.

My plan was to have a slow drip from my gray tank when on the road......which of course would lead to the comment...."gosh I did not know it was going to rain today"....

Whatever,.... with all the various access points for dumping tanks, maybe we all need to just comply with good sanitary practices.
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Old 12-14-2015, 07:57 AM   #4
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Some cg have specific areas for tenters etc to dump their wash basins. So it is not dumped into the bushes.
1984 Avion 30p 9.1 meter. 2006 Dodge 3500 cummins srw short bed crew cab.
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Old 12-14-2015, 08:04 AM   #5
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If you find yourself camped in a place that forbids the dumping of gray water, then you shouldn't do it. Some places really make a big thing of this, others don't, some are very crowded, others are well dispersed, some sites are dirt and gravel with little to no bushes or trees around while some are in lush forests. The point here, as in all things, is that there is a huge variety of situations and you need to pay attention to these.

I am of the school where dumping gray water is usually OK. I would NEVER simply open my drain and let it flow. I use a garden hose and direct the water to a nearby tree or bush. I do most of my camping in wooded areas which makes it easy. When we are at a place that doesn't work, I drag the trailer to the dump station.

I have mentioned this before on this forum and the "other" one before I got our Airstream. I find it funny when people are quick to rip into the practice when they often camp next to tenters, tent trailers and such who openly toss out pans of dishwater all the time. Just walk through a forest campground and you will see a tent trailer with a 5 gallon bucket sitting next to the sink drain.

It is important to always remain respectful of those around you and all those who will camp in the spot you currently occupy. Common sense and respect should always guide your decision.
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Old 12-14-2015, 08:10 AM   #6
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Funny thing is that many TT have an outdoor shower option and there seems to be no problem with that. Shower water goes directly onto the ground beside the trailer.
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Old 12-14-2015, 10:08 AM   #7
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Suffice to say, any water that has contaminates in it (food particles, soap, toothpaste, etc.) is "grey." Some campgrounds are so strict that they provide a dish washing facility for the tent campers so that they aren't tempted to rinse their coffee cups and fling the rinse water on the grass. If you are willing to play by the rules of the campground, or if you want to hold yourself to the highest standard, then any water you aren't willing to drink needs to go into your grey water tank.

I imagine that the trailers' outdoor showers are intended to be used to rinse off sandy bodies at the beach, muddy feet, or dirty pets, not for someone to soap up and take a full-blown-grey-water-generating shower.

I have spent time camping with some very hard-core enviro-friendly backpackers who swap out their hiking boots for "camp shoes" to minimize scuffing up the ground in the campsite, and forbid the use of tent stakes because they leave holes in the earth. They also swallow the rinse water after brushing their teeth and drink whatever water is used to rinse dirty dishes.

So if you want to extend your time boondocking, and your limit is based on a grey tank filling up, then rather than sneaking grey water into the bushes, try to minimize generation of grey water. Plan menus that minimize the dirtying of dishes, take sponge-baths instead of showers, use a bucket full of dishwater to flush/rinse the toilet, etc...
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Old 12-14-2015, 10:55 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Gearheart View Post
Funny thing is that many TT have an outdoor shower option and there seems to be no problem with that. Shower water goes directly onto the ground beside the trailer.
Always thought the outdoor showers were for rinsing only,.
1984 Avion 30p 9.1 meter. 2006 Dodge 3500 cummins srw short bed crew cab.
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Old 12-14-2015, 11:51 AM   #9
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Palmer Lake , Colorado
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When we were at the Rose Parade rally we were not able to allow grey water to drain on the ground (we don't have a grey water tank). A blue boy is a great addition which allows you to empty the grey water into it then take it to an approved area to empty it in. They have wheels and can be easily pulled. I got mine at goodwill for next to nothing cost wise
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Old 12-14-2015, 12:05 PM   #10
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grey water

What I did was install 2 grey tanks 1 for the shower and 1 for the kitchen ....although I can use them as one I have a valve for separating if I want. I rarely use them separately but it does give me the option to get rid of shower water only.
Ive always used common sense when it comes to grey water disposal in boondocking areas. If the tenters are hauling theirs to a dump I don't dump anything .
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Old 12-14-2015, 12:07 PM   #11
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There's a significant difference between dumping a gallon of dish water vs dumping 20 gallons of gray water all in one spot.

At issue here is integrity. And surprise, surprise - integrity is how a man behaves when no one's looking.

It occurs to me you're just looking for justification to dump gray water when no one's looking.

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Old 12-14-2015, 12:10 PM   #12
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I don't know about the rest of the campers in the world, but it's very difficult for me to take a shower and not pee at the same time, so I don't dump my "gray" water on the ground.
Terry P. Rizzuti, "Yertle"

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Old 12-14-2015, 12:25 PM   #13
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Most dish washing water contains food particles. I think that dumping on the ground may attract flys especially if it is dumped on the same bush day after day. It seems to me that dumping the gray water in the fire ring is somewhat better than on a bush. At least there is a chance it will be incinerated. It's always good for putting out the fire.
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Old 12-14-2015, 12:32 PM   #14
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We stayed the night at a national forest campground last April in northern California .
It was quite early in the season and we had the entire campground to ourselves.
On the registration sign , the Forest service had placed a few dos and donts , among the dos it said to please find a deserving bush or tree and dump all gray water there .
We were more than happy to oblige .

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