Water Usage and Conservation

Water Usage and Conservation

Some of the best campsites are primitive. No water, sewer or electric hookups. Primitive campsites may not come with public toilets, showers, potable water or dump stations. To boondock in these campsites requires resource conservation. Resources to conserve include

  • Fresh and waste water
  • Battery power
  • Propane
  • Fuel for generators

Without measurements, reasoning about water usage is impossible.

Track Normal Usage

The first step to water conservation requires an understanding of normal usage. To track water usage, track usage by activity and amount consumed. This may sound complicated but it isn’t. Unfortunately, it will be tedious. One tracking method is having a journal where each entry has the following information:

  • User
  • Activity
  • Start usage date/time
  • Start usage measure
  • Stop usage date/time
  • Stop usage measure
  • Water used (calculated as the [stop-usage-measure] minus the [start-usage-measure].
  • Notes (anything that might seem relevant)

The least expensive water meters are the kind that connect to standard water hoses like the ones used for RV potable water. With an inexpensive water meter, the best way to measure usage is by camping in a full hookup campground and measuring the water as it comes in from the hookups.

In Line Water Meter
In Line Water Meter

Usage measure assumes a water meter on the RV inlet as shown above. This meter is set to measure in gallons and keeps a running total of the amount of gallons used until reset. Instead of resetting after each reading, it is easier to just make a notation of gallons used since the beginning of time. An activity’s usage is the difference between the last reading before the activity and the first reading after.

Water Usage Diary Entries
Water Usage Diary Entries

Not wanting to create a form, one might just shorten the journal entries to user, activity and measure as shown above. Then at the end of each day, take the journal entries and create a spreadsheet showing the values. Microsoft Excel is shown below but this can also be done on paper.

Water Usage Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
Water Usage Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet

When trying to capture usage, one thing jumped out at me. We use water so often and for so many different activities that a full detailed accounting may not be in our best interest.

For example, on the first page of the diary there is an entry “LMP Clean Produce / make salad 28.5.” One could also have entries for each type of meal. Steak, baked potato and canned green beans, chicken fajitas, salad with canned black beans, homemade pizza and so on.  This level of detail adds unnecessary complexity.  Besides, we do completely different and much simpler meals designed for paper plates and minimal cleanup when boondocking.  We have collapsed all food related water usage activities (preparation, cleanup, ingredient, drinking water, etc.) into a single category – food prep.

This week we have full hookups. Our one concession to this water study, other than usage tracking, is Navy showers instead of Hollywood showers.

Standardizing Actvities

We have standardized activities to the following list:

  • Overnight
    All activities that occur between the last reading before going to bed and the first reading after one is up in the morning.  This may include drinks of water, bathroom use and tooth brushing.
  • Shower
    All activities associated with showering such as shaving, tooth brushing and showering.
  • Flush #1
    All activities associated with doing #1 in the bathroom including hand washing.
  • Flush #2
    All activities associated with doing #2 in the bathroom including hand washing.
  • Ready for bed
    All activities needed for getting ready for bed which can include tooth brushing, mouth wash, retainer rinsing, denture cleaning, etc.
  • Food Prep
    All activities associated with food and drink.  Activities may include filling Brita Water Pitcher, filling coffee pot, rinsing dishes, washing dishes, filling dog water bowl, washing dishes, cleaning vegetables, etc.
  • Arrival
    The starting point for a data set. Only useful if you want to track studies where the water meter isn’t starting out at zero.

Data Analysis

Usage data on paper or in the computer is just data. As RVers, we need actionable information that can be used to improve water conservation while boondocking. The data needs to be analyzed. Our usage will be unique to us as will be our conclusions. As Howard Payne of RV-Dreams says, “There is no right way to full time. There is no wrong way either.” This applies to RVing as well. No right or wrong way to RV. Given all that, how does one figure out what is best for their circumstance?

We have already simplified data collection and analysis by simplifying and standardizing activities.  From our data, I expect to be able to provide accurate predictions on our daily boondocking water usage for Overnight, Showers and toilet use.  I see room for improving tooth brushing which may lower estimates for showers, ready for bed and overnight.

As I approach the seventh collection day, data collection continues to be tedious.

Hope to see you on the road ahead!

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