When you’re boondocking, do you dump? Your grey water, that is.
Our wheels had barely started turning the first time anyone introduced us to the concept of dumping grey water somewhere other than a septic system.
Wisconsin’s Amish country beckoned but the nearest dump station was closed and our grey tanks were full.
We asked a farmer if he knew of another station.
“Yah sure, right there” he said as he pointed to his field.
Our heads spun ’round. “Are you kidding!” we asked. He wasn’t. “Just your greywater of course. Go ahead and pull in, the field needs it.”
We couldn’t believe it. As dedicated backpackers who took every precaution to avoid polluting water sources on the trail, we were horrified.
But our 35 gallon grey tanks were full and we had nowhere to go. So we did it. Eeew.
The Blue Boy Blues
Avid boondockers know; when you’re settled into a spot, going to the dump is a huge ordeal.
Some folks haul a blue boy around. Many are brave enough to use the blue boy for blackwater dumping, which seems pretty disgusting. We would never, ever get that close to our own poo water (other than the occasional RV dump mishap).
You’ll see blue boy enthusiasts driving 3 miles per hour through Quartzsite, which appears to take longer than just pulling up stakes and moving the rig.
Our fifth wheel is too small to keep a blue boy, so that option is out for us.
Our boondocking experiences have taken us to many places where dumping greywater in an open field was accepted by the local population, whether they were land owners or fellow RVers. Usually it’s in the desert.
At the Slabs, it’s a given. Some folks push the envelope of decency by digging gopher holes for grey and black water. Trust me, we won’t go there. Ever.
Playing by the Rules
Stealth greywater dumping is always contingent on the dumping area being safely away from water, other campers and only in barren locations. And if you’re going to dump gray water, do it at night (by daytime the puddle has evaporated). Only use biodegradeable soaps and never allow liquid kitchen wastes to go down the drain. That’s just smelly.
If you do, or are considering the possibilities, here’s a handy little device made specifically for this purpose.
The Valterra T1020-5VP Gray Water Drain Adapter.
We saw a camper in Ajo, Arizona using one. Just attach a garden hose and point it away from your rig. Downhill, of course.
Many RVers will deny doing the gray water dumping deed. Chances are, if an RVer has ever boondocked long-term, they’ve done it at least once. Being willing to admit it is another story. It’s just like a saying among scuba scuba enthusiasts:
There are two kinds of divers out there: Those who pee in their wetsuits, and those who lie about it.
74 thoughts on “Stealth Greywater Dumping, Do You or Don’t You?”
Military ships and I assume many others, routinely dump all waste water in the ocean when distance from land allows….
Also, an outhouse is literally a hole in the ground filled with black water… Many places it is allowed to have such a thing.
My RV grey water goes down A hill away from anyone and my black water goes into the outhouse. At night I’ll pee in the RV.. which is no difference then if I walked outside and took a wee at some place my grey water drains.
Good points Joe. I think the problem with the dumping of greywater and blackwater into untreated systems is that so many of us have so many chemicals in our systems now, that we are putting those toxins into groundwater supplies and making it even more questionable.
First a little background…. I grew up in the 60’s on my grandparents farm in northern Idaho. Nothing but the toilet went into the septic. All the shower, laundry and sink water went out on the ground some distance from the house and far from the water well. We had an outhouse when the temperatures got so cold that we had to shut the water off and drain the pipes.
We are full timers that when appropriate (widely dispersed away from water) won’t hesitate to stealth dump our gray water on the ground. That being said I understand rules not too as many are not careful enough not to dump cooking grease and who knows what all down the drain.
We do not put any food particles down the sink, uses nothing but biodegradable soap and use a composting toilet. For those that have a problem with this practice they need to look no further than the warning labels on bags and bottles of lawn care food, herbicides and insecticides at your local building material store. All of this stuff is extremely toxic and is meant to be broad distributed over the entire lawn. Most of what is in gray water is totally non toxic.
Great points Steve, thanks for being so conscientious when doing the deed!
Greywater: According to http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/ , there are millions of systems in use, most of which are illegal, and there is not one documented case of illness attributed to one. Of course this refers to the use of domestic greywater from sinks, showers, laundry, etc., not the output of septic tanks, which is also called greywater.
Yellow water: Diluted urine is a wonderful fertilizer. The belief that it is sterile is incorrect, but any hazards are easily managed. Avoid contact by children and pregnant women. One way to use it is to mix it with wood chips, and then use the wood chips for mulch. It will have a slight smell, which will go away after about a half-hour after applying. Many RV’ers have composting toilets which divert urine into a separate container. Proper use of urine would eliminate humanity’s reliance on artificial fertilizers.
Black water/feces: Pathogens should die off after six months of aerobic mouldering. To be safe, let it compost at least a year, two years if composting is anaerobic.
The Humanure Handbook ( https://slateroofwarehouse.com/Books/Joseph_Jenkins_Books/Humanure_Handbook )describes low-key ways to deal with your waste.
Wrong, if your in the United States dumping greywater into a lake ocean or any natural water resource of this Nation is totally illegal and a criminal act. An rv is not a boat, even if it was most lakes and inland waterways are zero discharge Zones. If you discharged graywater into
a zero discharge in Ny State and get caught they take you straight to jail await arraignment and forfeit your yacht , , it gets auctioned off by the state. Also a serious violation of The Clean Water Act, and and a violation of sanitary codes in every state in the nation. intentionally releasing raw untreated wastewater into a waterway in order to avoid paying for legally requierd transportation to a permitted disposal site in order to avoid paying for its proper safe sanitary permitted disposal in order to save time and pocket the extra cash not only endangers public health but also
spreads death human disease and disability. Water Related illness caused by poor sanitary conditions are in fact the leading cause of death worldwide.
Additionally illegal greywater dumping into waterways lakes and oceans has serious negative environmental impacts, it not only causes water pollution it is water pollution, that’s another reason why it was outlawed by an Act of Congress and made illegal in all 50 states. if you doubt this to be true test it out on yourself by simply dumping into your potable water tank creating a closed loop wastewater recycling system. Use it as a valuable recource for all drinking bathing and washing and let us know if any sign of of your water being polluted shows up such as illness vomiting suden death or ghastly foul oders.
Rich, while most of what you wrote sounds correct based on what I remember from my days as a groundwater exploration instructor, to things, 1) I believe you are forgetting that the original post was NOT referencing dumping graywater or blackwater for that matter into waterways. 2) greywater is not the same as raw sewage as it only includes water from showers, sinks, and washing machines. Naturally, if what you put down your sink is a toxic substance than you will have toxic wastewater, however that isn’t legal in municipal sewer system either so the point is moot.
The concept of a greywater leachpit or simply putting it on the ground is not even close to the same topic as dumping wastewater into streams, rivers, or non-international waterways. Surfactants and high-phosphate containing biproducts are the greatest concern in waterways; on the ground (with greater than 3 feet from watertable) away from open water sources, well systems, or other sensitive eco-systems greywater is NOT likely to have the effects you are listing, which seem more inline with untreated blackwater or fecal sewage. Use some common sense and don’t put nasty chemicals on the ground or in water-sources. Some phosphate free dish soap splashed on the ground away from exposed water sources is not going to have the impacts you’ve eluded to (IE vomiting, sudden death [sic], or ghastly foul odors [sic].
Is dumping black water ok in your cow pasture?
Not. Ever. Too much bacteria and it’s not the same kind as cow poop so it’s generally a bad idea.
My septic guy who does my tanks has a permit to dump the contents onto a field
For sure it’s ok! We live in California where water is like gold. We recycle our grey water at home, and I Thought it might be helpful to actually bring our water home from short trips. We save much or our water, and I can imagine lots of people would be glad to have it on their land (assuming it doesn’t have chemicals or sewage in it). Only I thought it was illegal to dump it anywhere besides a specialized dump site. It’s even illegal to recycle grey water in our city without a permitted system. It’s good to know that people will let you dump the recycled water on their land.
We are brand new to this and haven’t tried it, but pondering ways to dump the black water directly into our sewer at home (like making our own hookup/drain for convenience when we get back). I have had trouble finding places to dump when borrowing campers in the past.
Thanks all for recycling precious water!
Oh gosh well California has its own set of rules, other parts of the U.S. are pretty lenient. I’m surprised you can even get a permitted greywater recycling system in CA>
You can certainly build a sewer dump at your house (we know many people who have done that), just don’t let your local building department know about it!
I have a 2019 5th wheel I set it up next to a friends House with electric water and direct tv .I use His House for the Toilet but water is set up for Showering ,Shaving ,etc. I let my Grey Water drain out to His Lawn per His request. My question is will this harm anything ? I live in it.
That’s a good friend, Buddy! I would say that as long as your toiletries are eco-groovy and kind to the planet, his lawn should be a-ok.
It is completely legal to dump grey water directly into a lake or ocean. All boats dump grey water directly overboard.
Oh yeah that didn’t even cross my mind Reid. Thanks for the enlightenment.
When we camp at our friend’s house in NY we just run a grey water hose into their trees. There are times when it makes sense….but we never abuse this option.
Now those are some good friends Patti! Do they have extra space? 😉
YOU are terrible people………welcome aboard I say.
‘My grandmother’s sink and wash water drained into the back yard and the flora certainly was flourishing at those spots.’
For exactly the same reason why we don’t use soap in a lake, the stuff is fertilizing, the phosphates feed algae. Nothing wrong with a little soapy water on the ground, the park I’m in has grey water traps, the ministry of environment even has regulations on how to build them. I used to put a drop of soap in a bucket of water to pull dew worms out from under a composter.
I’d agree with that Jamie. There is much worse stuff that people put on the ground.
We are fairly new to traveling in a TT. Our first site with no sewage hookup was interesting for a family of five. Conserving am military showers only lasted two days on 35 gallon grey tank. My oldest suggested we scoop up the shower water and dump away from the trailer. We lasted five days! I got to thinking that this could be bad for environment. We are in the desert. Thank you for your insight and candor.
Just a note to thank you and remind you that acts of bravery live forever on the internet! 🙂 Just starting out and trying to learn everything we can. Your analogy reminded me of another from the world of cruising on the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) – two types of boaters on the ICW; those who have gone aground, and those who lie about it.
Well shucks, thanks Jane! That’s kind of like the old saying about divers peeing in their wet suits.
Best wishes to you in your travels. Keep in touch!
I see the posts and some replies are very old, but thought I would chime in. Katajojo reflects my position perfectly, so I should just add a X2 and be gone, but that’s not my style. My grandmother’s sink and wash water drained into the back yard and the flora certainly was flourishing at those spots. Her whole life up to a few years before I was born, she had an outhouse. But, as they got up in years, grandpa built an addition onto the back of the house for her; with lumber he cut down and sawed himself, and installed, toilet, sink and shower. I think he built a septic tank and made the drain field, for the toilet only. You always knew where the drain field was because the greenest grass in the yard was there. So, I think It is the high volumes of what waste we are dealing with not the waste itself. I think a composting toilet is something that would profit us all. My hats off to any and all that live small.
Wolfwhistle, you were fortunate to grow up with two great grandparents. What homesteaders! I agree, it’s the amount of waste that’s the issue. Composting toilets are terrific and so is recycling grey water. Thanks for sharing your experience.