Conserving Water in an RV (and failing in a house)

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to write. Hi!

Brief life update: I injured myself working as a ski instructor, I’ve been on crutches for 2 months and counting, and I’m working about 60 hours a week between my desk work skiing replacement job (yay for Worker’s Comp!) and teaching for CU Denver. I’m ready to heal and adventure again and we are both looking forward to getting back into the RV come spring.

While we are on the subject of fuel consumption and solar power, I thought I’d chime in with thoughts about water usage in the RV. We got really good at conserving water in the RV, mostly by necessity. As we have discussed before, we love to boondock, but we only have a 35 gallon fresh water tank. With two people and a big dog, we have to work hard to stretch that amount. Can you believe, though, that we can usually last a week before refilling the water tank? That’s only 5 gallons a day for both of us combined.


For reference, you use 5 gallons by leaving the water running when you brush your teeth. A 10 minute shower with a low-flow shower head uses 12.5 gallons of water. Add in washing dishes, drinking, cooking, flushing the toilet, and washing clothes, and the average US household family of 4 uses 400 gallons per day!

This post, though, is not to brag or be holier-than-thou. After all, since moving into a sticks-and-bricks place for the winter, our water usage has crept up and up. In fact, using this calculator, I’d guess we use more like 125 gallons a day between the two of us now. (Check out that link, it is eye-opening!) Instead, I want to offer ideas for what worked for us for those of you in an RV that are looking to stretch your water supply or for those of you in a house who are looking to reduce your water consumption.

So what did we do differently in the RV?

Cooking and Dish-washing

I do most of the cooking for our house (I enjoy it and I’m pretty good at it, so it’s a self-chosen role). It got to where we leaned heavily on one-pot meals simply because dishes were such a big water-suck. I got pretty flexible, but it was a bummer to give up some of my “use every dish in the kitchen” cooking sessions in the name of water conservation. There are also certain meals that are just a pain to clean up after, especially in a small kitchen, so those went out the window, too.

As for dish-washing itself, we got it down to a science. Two wash tubs, minimal water, and a very certain order to avoid making the wash water overly dirty. Nik recalls watching a friend do dishes in a sticks & bricks house around month 5 of our trip and being amazed at how he just let the water run to wash and rinse everything. Think of all that water down the drain! And now, of course, we are doing the exact same thing in our S&B. Whoops.

Showering…or not.

This is the part that weirds most people out. RV life, specifically our boondocking-heavy, conservation-minded RV life, does not lend itself to daily or even every-other-day showers, especially not at home. We made use of gyms, yoga studios, and hot springs for their showers. We took sponge baths with hot water and washcloths. We used baby wipes. Basically, showering in the RV was a last resort because it used so, so much water, even with strict navy showers. Essentially, we were choosing to stay where we were one day less in exchange for being freshly clean. (Don’t get me wrong, that was worth it sometimes!) We ended up showering in the RV about once every 4-5 days and using showers elsewhere and sponge baths in between.

An RV toilet, too, is simply built to use very little water. That helps cut down significantly on water usage.

Collecting water for other uses

Our RV water heater is older and runs on propane (unlike newer electric water heaters), so we only turned it on when we needed it. It worked well, but you still had to clear the cold water out of the lines before you had warm water. We got very good about collecting this cold water for other things, like to give to Cheat as drinking water, to fill our water bottles, or to collect as rinse-water for dish washing. We never let water go down the drain if there was a way it could be re-used in any other way.

No outdoor water use!

In an RV, we didn’t have a yard to maintain, nor did we care enough to spend hours each week washing and shining our rig.

Once it became a habit, and a necessary one, water conservation wasn’t something we had to think about too much. Some of the water savings came from just using water elsewhere, for instance, using laundromats instead of home washing machines, but generally these were very water efficient. Granted, it is so much more difficult in a house where water just flows in an infinite supply! It is far easier to set up mechanisms such as low-flow shower heads and toilets, faucet aerators, and high efficiency washers and dishwashers than it is to force yourself to take a navy shower each day. Once we move back into our RV, we will definitely have some bad habits to un-learn again!



2 thoughts on “Conserving Water in an RV (and failing in a house)

    1. Yeah, I was originally introduced to it living in Colorado, where a lot of people are fairly water conscious. In a house, people will use “extra” water to water plants, especially. Personally, I’m bad about ever actually finishing a glass of water, so that goes to other uses, too (usually the dog). 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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