How To Legally Dispose Of RV Gray Water
RV gray water is called gray water because the used soapy water in it gives it a grayish hue. Gray water is flushed from the sinks and shower and is stored in the gray water tank until it’s dumped. A separate gray water holding tank is handy to have, especially when you are RV camping without access to sewage hookups.
The one problem with an RV gray water holding tank is that it fills up a lot faster than the black water holding tank. This is because we tend to use more water for showering, washing, or cooking food than we do for flushing the toilet.
When the gray water tank is full, it tends to back up into the shower or the closest sink. So, what can you do when the gray water tank is full? Is it okay to just dump the water on the ground?
Why you shouldn’t dispose of RV gray water just anywhere
While gray water isn’t nearly as gross and noxious as black water, it shouldn’t be just dumped onto the ground. You might be wondering why we say that, since gray water is just soapy water, maybe with some tiny food particles in it. The reason is that gray water can have negative impacts on the environment. This is true even when we use biodegradable soaps and dish detergent.
Wherever we camp, we want to leave the environment the same as when we found it. Disposing of gray water by just dumping it on the ground can change the environment. It all starts with the soil. Plants depend on the native soil’s natural PH balance and ability to absorb moisture in order to thrive. Gray water contains chemicals and oils that can affect that natural balance and function of the soil, and this in turn affects the ability of native vegetation to thrive.
Dumping RV gray water in areas with natural water sources like streams, rivers, or lakes nearby can encourage algae. Algae can choke out the naturally occurring species we love. Algae blooms (like blue-green algae) can make water toxic to animals and humans. Never dump gray water into or near natural water sources.
Use biodegradable products when you camp
The cumulative environmental impact of phosphate-containing detergents is huge. Lakes, ponds, and waterways can become unusable when phosphate-caused fish die-offs or toxic algae blooms occur.
It’s always a good idea to use phosphate-free, biodegradable dish detergents, shampoo, and soaps when we are camping. There are many on the market. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is one of the most well-known biodegradable soaps and can be used for everything from washing hair to washing laundry.
Legal options for disposing of RV gray water
Every state has its own laws regarding how you can legally dispose of gray water. However, there are legal ways to dispose of gray water wherever you may be. Here are a few ways to dispose of RV gray water when you are camping.
- Dump your dishwater in the RV toilet: Wash your dishes in a wash basin that fits in your RV kitchen sink, and then dump it down your RV toilet.
- Dispose of gray water at a dump station: You can always drive to a nearby dump station to dump your gray water there. However, you might not want to uproot your camp and drive over to a dump station to empty your gray water tank. You can always save your gray water in a portable RV waste tank, 5-gallon jug, or bucket, and then take it to a station to dump.
- Dump RV gray water into a regular toilet: Dumping gray water into a flush toilet might be an option when you’re camping at a campground that has toilet facilities. Collect gray water five gallons at a time in a dedicated water jug or bucket. Then dump it into a public toilet when it’s full. Always ask campground staff if it’s ok to dispose of a small amount of RV gray water in the campground toilet before you do so. Rarely, you might have to dump it at the dump station.
Check the state laws for RV gray water dumping
It might be okay to dump your gray water on the ground, depending on the state where you camp. Many states allow you to legally to dump gray water on the ground after you’ve taken some precautions to protect the environment. Other states don’t differentiate between gray water and black water when it comes to disposal practices, and you aren’t allowed to dump either. Still, other states (like Arizona) won’t allow you to dump dishwater, but it’s perfectly fine to dump shower and sink/washbasin water.
RV gray water disposal on Bureau of Land Management land
If you camp on BLM land, state laws regarding the dumping of waste water will often supersede the federal law, which specifically allows the dumping of wash water.
Whenever possible, dump your RV gray water at a dump station or sewage facility. Avoid contributing to environmental pollution by using biodegradable products.
It’s also a great idea to use a strainer to strain out any food particles if you dump your gray water on the ground to avoid attracting wildlife. Always check with the state laws where you camp before you dump your RV gray water.
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Lynne lives, travels, and works full-time in a Forest-River R-Pod 180 with her 2-pointers, Jolene and Annabelle. Lynne has been an enthusiastic RVer for over 35 years. And then one day in 2019, she began full-time RVing as a lifestyle experiment. She quickly fell in love with the convenience, freedom and minimalist lifestyle offered by full-time RV living. Lynne is a professional writer and has been a professional dog trainer since 1995. You can read about her travel adventures on her R-Pod Adventure blog, R-podyssey at: http://www.rpodaventure.com