Our 2011 Keystone Cougar fifth wheel came with a large 60-gallon fresh water tank. One of the reasons I picked the Cougar was the large tank capacities, I knew we would be doing a load of dry camping.
Even with the large fresh water tank we still practice some basic water conservation when out boondocking. With just a little bit of effort, we can extend our time before needing a refill.
We aren’t hardcore water savers by any means, but manage an average 8-10 days off our 60-gallon tank. We still like the luxury of cooking nice meals, using regular dishes and a quick shower each every few days. With that in mind here are 7 ways we lower our boondocking water usage.
1) Upgraded the Faucets and Shower Head
Unfortunately, our RVs come equipped, for the most part, with cheap plumbing fixtures. Either they blast the water or trickle it out with an uneven flow making temperature adjustment frustrating. Both can be very water wasteful.
A few plumbing fixture upgrades that have really helped reduce our water consumption:
- Adding water conserving aerators to kitchen and bathroom faucets.
- Installed an Oxygenics Fury RV shower head. It provides excellent pressure with less water consumption, plus a handy sliding flow control lever.
- Installed ¼ turn shower faucets. They are quicker to adjust than the OEM multi-turn fixture was.
2) Upgraded the Water Pump
Our rig came equipped with an inexpensive brand water pump. It worked OK but being it was a three chamber style pump it was noisy like a machine gun and the flow was inconsistent. I recently upgraded it to a ShurFlo 4008 four chamber water pump and the noise is greatly reduced. A nice side benefit is much more even water pressure when the taps are only partially turned on. This makes it easier to shower and rinse dishes using a lower flow.
3) Use Paper Towels for Mucky Dishes
I love to cook! But many dishes like pasta, soups, chili, roasted meats, etc. can make quite the mess. Before washing the plates, pots and pans, I utilize paper towels to wipe off the bulk of the leftover food debris. This saves a fair amount of rinse water and keeps excess food particles out of the galley waste tank reducing odors.
4) Save Initial Cold Water Flow
When first running a hot water tap capture and save the initial flow of cold water that comes out. This water can then be used in a pitcher, tub or spray bottle as rinse water for your dishes or saved up and poured back into the fresh water tank.
5) Save Sudsy Dish Water
I generally only do dishes once a day when dry camping. When doing them, I save a good portion of the soapy water and put it in a jug beside our toilet. This soapy dish water can now be reused to flush our toilet and help clean our black tank.
6) Wash Hair in Sink and Sponge Bath
I have fairly oily type hair and need to wash it often. To save water instead of showering every day, I will wash my hair in the sink, trying to use as little shampoo as possible for quick rinsing. This water can also be captured for the toilet flushes. Then (once again in the sink) I give myself a quick sponge bath. Baby wipes work well for this too.
7) Only Heat Hot Water Tank to Your Preferred Shower Temp
A significant amount of water is wasted in the shower mixing cold and hot to get the right temperature. A trick you can use is to only heat the water to your preferred temperature instead of maximum. It will take a bit of trial and error to get it right. Once you do though then only the hot water tap is required to shower. Turn on the tap and capture the initial cold water in a jug. Once it runs warm turn off. Now just turn the tap on and off as needed to wash up and the water (since it’s not mixing) will remain a consistent temperature.
Figuring out when the water heater has reached the desired temperature can be done using an infrared red temperature gun or a thermometer probe placed against the metal part of the tank. Many can be purchased with a digital readout. A bonus to this method is less propane usage!