Many off-road free camping areas are now for self-contained RVs only: this means that there is to be NO discharge of any kind from the RV onto the ground. These controlled sites were mostly negotiated by the CMCA for their members, as most motorhomes have both grey and blackwater holding tanks.
While many modern vans have an onboard ensuite or porta-pottie, most vans do not have tanks for holding grey water (water from showers, dish washing, hand washing). In past years, this was not such a problem as there were fewer vans using free camps and most vans drained only small amounts of water from washing dishes. The countryside was able to absorb this volume of water, particularly in times of drought.
However, many modern vans now carry hundreds of litres of water. In fact, many free campers add extra water tanks to allow them to camp for more days without the need to refill their tanks. They emit large volumes of water from showers and washing machines.
Indeed, last year we arrived at a camp on the Barkly to be greeted by a caravanner with lines of washing and a running generator to power their washing machine. They had drained the camping area’s emergency tank to do this washing, and the ground was awash with soapy water.
This trip we visited and stayed in several off road camps. Probably the best looked after was by the river at Surat, in south-west Queensland, where we saw no sign of rubbish. There were well maintained toilets on site and free hot showers available a short walk away in town. The free camp at St Lawrence in central Queensland is similar, with hot showers available for $1.There was a donation box at both sites, but perhaps a small charge should be levied to maintain these excellent facilities, possibly $5 per night.
One of the least pleasant areas was at Fletcher Creek north of Charters Towers, where we saw toilet paper, rubbish and actually spied one camper emptying his night bucket in the bushes behind his van! I estimated there were a couple of hundred vans there, and some of the sites were very muddy with effluent water.
At Julia Creek the local council has provided a free camp on the edge of town for self-contained vans only. We saw several vans with buckets collecting grey water, but what do they do with the buckets? Do they take them up in their vehicle to the dump point? The Mayor and CEO told me that the council ranger had caught someone emptying their toilet cassette into the billabong there, even though there was a dump site nearby.
This council is currently planning new regulations for the area: maybe allowing two nights at the free camp and then a free night at the van park in town to use the dump point and re-fill water tanks. They are hoping that this will bring more business to their town which is struggling in the drought. The caravan park itself charges only $50 for 3 nights or $21 per night.
YOUR SAY: How many of you have a self-contained van, with holding tanks for both grey and black water? How many vans and what brands of vans are being built with greywater holding tanks as well as blackwater tanks? What do you do with your grey and blackwater in these free camps?