Grey water guidelines while camping

Anita Pavey — 3 May 2017

If you’ve been absorbed in your own little world over the last few years, chances are you haven’t been following the discussion on grey water. Grey water is the discharge from sinks, showers, washing machines and the like, as distinct from black water, which is the product from toilet systems.

Grey water tanks are sometimes fitted to offroad vans to collect used water so it can be discharged at a suitable facility, rather than creating a muddy pool under your RV by discharging it on to the ground. Vans with outside cooking facilities will normally use a bucket for collecting spent dishwater that can be emptied away from camp to share with a deserving tree or two.


So, what do you currently do with your grey water when camping? Are you content to let it pool under your RV at each bush camp? What do you do when camped near a water course?

Soapy shower discharge is one thing, but used oily water from the sink is another thing again. For all these reasons and more, think about the impact on the environment and those that follow you.

Call me a tree-hugger if you wish, but I believe we should respect the environment and take the necessary steps to protect it for future generations. Camping on public land is a privilege and we all need to do our bit to look after it.

Grey water is not unlike litter or unburied human waste. It’s not cool to leave your campsite with the fire pit chokkas with half burnt rubbish or toilet paper confetti clinging to the fence flapping in the breeze. Grey water falls into the same bucket! Collect it and dispose of it properly away from the campground.


If your RV is not fitted with a grey water tank, you can still do your bit. Try collecting grey water in a large bucket and funnel it into a 20L cube for disposal elsewhere. Some campers use a 20L cube with wheels on it to aid in the process or smaller containers to aid in transportation.

Many public campgrounds are also becoming grey water savvy. I remember camping at the Kadina Showgrounds, SA, a few years ago. Camping was only open to fully self-sufficient campers. There were no gully traps, like in caravan parks, to collect used water; rather, RVs were required to capture their own discharge and dispose elsewhere.

National parks are now following similar lines, introducing grey water guidelines to help educate campers on the acceptable treatment of grey water, with many requiring disposal outside the park. While these are not mandatory rules, it helps reinforce the correct behaviour.

For vans with external showering facilities, you could try showering in a large flexible bucket or an inflatable kids’ pool. You may not collect every drop of water, but at least you’re not dumping large volumes of water. You can then drag the bucket out of the campground and water a needy shrub.

One last thing is to make sure your soaps and detergents are environmentally friendly.

If you hadn’t been thinking about the correct disposal of grey water until now, I hope this has motivated you in the right direction.

See you on the trails.

The full feature appears in Caravan World #562. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!


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