This month, Lake Mead hit a record low. As luck would have it, Lake Mead feeds the three states I spend the most time in: California, Nevada, and Arizona. It forced me to reconsider where I’ll finally put my tiny home and whether it’s even worth having one, not on wheels. Right now, I’m in Wyoming: a Midwestern state that looks surprisingly desert-like in the summer. They are also experiencing a drought, which has fuelled water wars among the farmers in the community serving as my home base.
No matter how severe droughts are, most Americans are so used to water consistently coming through the pipes, that few feel truly compelled to make changes. For RVers on the road, conserving water is a way of life. Our freshwater tanks can only hold so much and our waste tanks generally hold even less. So, here are some water conservation tips for RVers who need them and traditional home dwellers who want them.
1. Use Wipes as Part of Your Hygiene
According to the United States Geological Survey, Americans use 1 gallon of water for handwashing and about 2 to 5 gallons of water per minute for showers. I save a lot of water by sometimes wiping my hands clean and then sanitizing them.
For serious water conservation, you can also consider body wipes. These are larger wipes created for the specific purpose of replacing a shower. I use these when tent camping and when dry camping and they are lifesavers.
*Surviveware is the only brand I use and I always make sure I have a pack in the RV. Ideally, you should aim for biodegradable wipes. Remember not to flush them down the toilet, even when they say they’re flushable.
2. Reduce Cooking Waste
I never noticed how much water dishwashing took until RVing. According to the USGA, Americans use up to 27 gallons to wash dishes. Dishwashers use up to 16 gallons per cycle, but most people power those with on-grid fossil fuels.
When I dry camp, I use biodegradable plates and utensils to reduce the need to wash anything. Whether off-grid or not, I also wipe my dishes clean with paper towels before washing. I find I use less water and less soap when I do this.
Finally, I pour gravy, oil, and other excess liquids into an enclosed container and toss it out with the trash. An empty taco sauce jar or pasta sauce jar works just fine.
3. Try Premade Dishes
In one of my YouTube videos, I shared that I am not a very good camp cook. My meals never taste as good when tent camping as they do in the RV. Consequently, I keep dehydrated meals handy.
The ones I use, you can eat directly out of the pouch, so there is nothing else to wash but the spoon or fork you use. I only buy Good-To-Go dehydrated meals. I’ve tried almost all the flavors from this Maine-based company and especially recommend their Thai curry.
I keep these in the RV for camping trips and lazy days. You could also consider the occasional TV dinner, but these are much healthier.
4. Switch to a Composting Toilet
Another household activity that uses way too much freshwater is flushing the toilet. According to the USGA, new toilets use around 1.6 gallons per flush. Older ones use as much as 4 gallons per flush.
RV toilets use considerably less, but that’s still a waste of freshwater. Consequently, many RVers have switched to pricey composting toilets. I thought of making that switch until I realized that a Luggable-Loo works almost as well.
I use my $35 Luggable-Loo when I don’t have consistent access to both water and sewer connections. How much water does it use? None. I use a special liner, plus pine pellets or pet-bedding sawdust.
5. Use External Facilities
RVers generally have all the amenities we need on board. Van-dwellers and other people living more compact lifestyles often don’t have bathroom facilities.
These minimalists tend to rely on external facilities provided at RV parks, truck stops, laundromats, and gyms. Using facilities provided by family and friends is also handy. For example, while parked on the farm in Wyoming, I have access to a bathroom and laundry room on the side of the house that faces me.
Using external facilities won’t reduce your overall water usage. Still, it saves you from tapping into your limited onboard resources when you don’t have full hookups.
If you’re in a drought-affected area, it’s time to reconsider how you use water. Reducing consumption won’t put an end to droughts any time soon, but it will better ensure reservoir levels remain high enough to serve communities. And, if they don’t, you will have coping mechanisms in place to make it through the worst of what may lie ahead.
What are you prepared to do to reduce your water consumption, this year?
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