Water – a symbol of life with religious significance in many faiths. For Christians, water is made sacred by Jesus through the sacrament of Baptism. We thirst for Jesus, and He offers Himself to us as living water. Springs often have healing properties such as the water that bubbled up from the ground St. Bernadette dug at Lourdes, or nourishing properties as rivers of water streaming forth from a temple in the Old Testament. Water as a fountain of mercy from Jesus’ heart also satisfies and sustains our hearts. In the supernatural, water is precious and lifegiving. Listen to the Stream Here
Modern conveniences and easy access to plentiful clean water make us forget how the natural characteristics of water are similar to the supernatural. Water is for cleansing, for drinking, for cooking, for cooling off, or, when heated, for warming up or soothing a scratchy throat or irritated sinuses. Humans can survive for weeks without eating but only a few days without water.
Since I’ve been living in an Airstream travel trailer full-time I’ve acquired a deeper appreciation of water. My trailer can carry up to 39 gallons of fresh water in one tank, up to 37 gallons of ”grey water” drained from the shower or kitchen sink in another tank, and another 37 gallons that passes through the toilet and the bathroom sink to the “black water” tank. With no water tap or sewer outlet at my site, I’ve learned how to conserve so I can easily last ten days before having to replenish my water supplies or dump grey and black water.
Water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so you need to consider this when towing. I try to travel with almost empty black and grey tanks and a partially full fresh water tank. I dump dirty water before I travel and fill up with clean water at the first source after traveling. It’s a good idea to always keep a couple of gallon jugs of water in the tow vehicle, in case of miscalculations.
If I camp at a site with a fresh water outlet and a sewer hookup, water management is easy. The supply and disposal is unlimited, much like when I lived in a traditional house.
When I don’t have an on-site sewer connection, my black and grey water tank capacity limits how long I can stay in one place without moving to find a dumpsite. I’ve seen some folks resolve this with a portable honey tank on wheels, but I have no inclination to store and transport such a thing. The “stinky slinky” hose used to dump black and grey water is plenty of contaminated plastic for me! It fits nicely in my outside back bumper storage, which doesn’t lock, but I don’t think anyone would be tempted to walk off with it.
Without a fresh water inlet at your campsite, you have to remember to fill up your water tank with a hose when you have access to potable water. You can supplement on site by adding jugs of water to the tank using a funnel.
Here are my seven suggestions to conserve water while living in a travel trailer or RV.
Number One: Never let water run without using it.
Number Two: Never dispose of water without taking an opportunity to re-use it if possible.
Number Three: Wipe clean before washing. I wipe all food particles or sticky residues off dishes (or me) with a damp paper towel or wipe that goes in the trash. Then I wash.
Number Four: Create a sudsy water supply rather than soap up with running water. Use some warm water in a bowl or cup mixed with dish soap to wash and scrub each dish or cutlery first before rinsing. For yourself, apply the same principle with gentler soap or bath gel if you are washing your face or having a sponge bath. See below for showers.
Number Five: Rinse and reuse. Run a thin stream of clean water from the tap to rinse off the soap and capture the rinse water in a large bowl. Dump or funnel the captured rinse water into empty water jugs for use in the toilet. Be sure to mark or label the jugs and store them in the bathroom, so they are not mistaken for drinking water!
Number Six: Showers are short and simple. I love my sparkling clean Airstream shower, but I don’t linger in it unless I have a sewer hookup.
One quick uninterrupted shower easily uses one fifth of my tank. Instead, I capture water for re-use as it runs cold before it gets warm enough. When the water is nice and toasty, I take a Navy shower. Rinse, then turn off the water, lather up with soap and shampoo, then turn the water back on and rinse again. Repeat if needed, but avoid standing under running water if not actively rinsing. See Rule Number One!
Number Seven: For tooth brushing, do not run water continuously. Much like the shower, pretend the toothbrush is you. Rinse, turn off the water, use the toothpaste and brush, then spit and turn on the water to rinse again. Repeat as needed, finishing with a swish and spit of water or mouthwash.
Bonus Tip: Wipe the sinks and shower after using them with a paper towel or disinfectant wipe. It keeps them cleaner, avoids water spots, and removes the temptation to waste water by excessive spraying and rinsing.
Finally, consider alternatives. Hand sanitizer can be used instead of soap and water. Disposable unscented baby wipes can take the place of a sponge bath with water or a shower. Dry shampoo can extend the time before you must wash your hair. Take showers in the campsite public showers or at the gym or pool, if available. Use public restrooms for your toileting needs as much as possible. Try to keep your black tank intensive uses confined to the middle of the night or when it is stormy and you don’t want to trek in the dark or rain to the campsite facilities.
Some of these may seem extreme (or a little graphic…my apologies!). My point is that living full time in a trailer helps me look upon water as a gift. In the most prosaic ways, it reminds me of the transcendental, of water as life and of grace through Christ as living water. When something must be conserved and used carefully, we appreciate it more and also enjoy it more when we do have the chance to be more liberal in its use.