Thursday, December 1, 2022


Gray water in the boondocks: Know the rules


By Dave Helgeson

Potty parity – Equal number of restrooms for men and women, yet the line to the women‘s room is out the door and around the corner, while the men’s room appears to contain an express lane.

If your RV is like mine, you have potty parity of the holding tanks — two holding tanks of the same size. The gray tank, being the “women’s room,” gets all the action, while the black tank, being the “men’s room,” has a “Space For Rent” sign posted!

For boondockers, potty parity can extremely limit your time in the boonies. To follow are some tips to bring some equality to your tanks.

Knowing the rules regarding gray water is key to extended stays in the boondocks. Federal lands typically list regulations regarding gray or dishwater. Just visit their websites and search for “dispersed camping regulations.”

Following are some examples:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered lands in southern Nevada allow the disposal of gray water under the following dispersed camping guidelines: “While camping choices are almost limitless, camping stays in the same location are limited to 14 days. Primitive campsites must be located at least 200 feet from roads and water sources such as springs, ponds, creeks or waters provided for wildlife or livestock. Gray water may be dumped at least 200 feet from any water source. Dumping sewage on public land is not legal.”

The Willamette National Forest allows the disposal of dishwater under the following provisions:

“Waste Water and Washing:
Do all washing and dispose of waste water at least 100 feet from any water source. Dig a small hole to act as a “sump” for dishwater.
Use small amounts of biodegradable soap.”

boondock sinkIn a case like this, resort to your tent camping days: Do the dishes in a dishpan then dispose of the water accordingly. This method works exceedingly well if you have a dishpan that fits in your kitchen sink.

Coconino National Forest totally prohibits disposal of waste water:
“ Please dispose of all garbage, including any paper, can, sewage, waste water or material, or rubbish either by removal the site or area, or by depositing it into receptacles or at places provided for such purposes. Failure to do so can result in a fine.”

In this situation, when disposing of any type of waste water is prohibited, utilize the dishpan as outlined above and then dispose of the dishwater by pouring it down your toilet. As you do, smile knowing that you are doing your part to end potty parity!

One more tip: Extreme boondockers use their dishwater to flush the toilet, thereby saving precious fresh water in the process.

I hope these tips extend your time between dump station visits and allow for more time in the boondocks. Enjoy!


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6 years ago

When are manufacturers going to address this disparity? How about a valve (one way only) that would allow moving your grey water over to the black tank? Couldn’t be too hard to figure out.

Larry Shoup
6 years ago
Reply to  Rick

Why worry about one-way? Get a third dump valve and let the two tanks serve as one big tank.

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