Caravanners on the move – managing wastewater
Story and photographs by Peter Rogers. e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Once COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased then caravanning and camping will quickly resume across all regional areas.
Appropriate wastewater management is an important part of caravanning to ensure that public and environmental health is not compromised. This article briefly outlines the nature of caravan wastewater and options for best management practice disposal.
Caravan wastewater comprises greywater and blackwater. Black water originates from a toilet and consists of human waste. Greywater includes wastewater from a washing machine, washing bucket, kitchen sink, bathroom sink and shower. The concentration of nutrients and contaminants of greywater from a caravan is significantly different to greywater from a domestic residence, however greywater water is relatively harmless if disposed of the same day it is made, but bacteria quickly builds up causing it to smell.
Dump points offer the most environmentally-friendly option to dispose of greywater or blackwater from a caravan. These facilities comprise either a public dump point provided by the local Council or a private dump point located at a caravan park, both of which are typically connected to municipal sewerage scheme or an approved pump out/septic tank system.
All blackwater from caravan blackwater tanks (70L to 250L) or toilet cassettes (up to 20L) or greywater (up to 300L) from caravan greywater tanks (if fitted) should be disposed at a public dump point or caravan park dump point and not be discharged to the general environment. Only emergency situations would permit digging a deep hole out in the bush and burying the blackwater a long way from any waterways.
The disposal of greywater is a contentious issue when touring and the rules may vary depending on the location or even the conditions that exist at the time. It is illegal to dump greywater onto the road when driving. Many campsites including National Parks require caravans to be fully self-contained. That normally means the ability to store greywater until leaving the area.
At caravan parks
As a rule, most caravan parks will provide a greywater drain where visitors can direct their greywater using their outlet hoses. Some are purpose-built drains into which the greywater hose outlet is inserted. Others may be no more than an open drain in which the greywater hose outlet just sits. However, access to some dump points can sometimes be problematic for large caravans and motorhomes.
Caravan parks that do not provide a greywater disposal system may simply request guests to direct greywater onto the grass or garden surrounding their site. Check with the park reception about disposing greywater. If the area is in drought, they may prefer greywater to flow onto their gardens rather than down the drain.
At free camps
It would be extremely rare for free camping areas to provide any disposal systems for greywater. Unless they are signposted otherwise, greywater can be allowed to run onto the ground. In these cases, be very considerate of other campers in the vicinity and place the greywater hose outlet in such a position that it doesn’t affect anyone else.
Tips for managing caravan greywater
Greywater generated from caravans can be made less offensive and better for the environment:
- Choose septic-friendly products such as soaps, detergents and washing powders
- Keep greywater systems clean
- Pour vinegar and baking soda down drains to clean them
- Flush greywater hoses after each use
- Use commercial greywater tank cleaners regularly
- Filter out all solid matter and dispose of it with regular rubbish
- Do not use the caravan shower as a toilet
- Dry-wipe plates and eating utensils with paper towels before washing-up.
Where to find a dump point
Motorhome Dump Points for Australia is one of many websites listing the location of dump points across Australia.
- RV Daily magazine > https://magazine.rvdaily.com.au/rv-daily-issue-047/guide-the-dos-and-don-ts-with-grey-water
- LANFAX Laboratories > http://www.lanfaxlabs.com.au/caravans.htm