There seems to be a bit of debate in the RV community regarding where you can and can’t dump gray water. Debating with a keyboard warrior on the other side of the country differs from arguing with a ranger or camp host at your campsite.
No matter what you hear or read online, you must know the rules and regulations where you’re camping. If not, you could find yourself in hot water with authorities.
Today, we’re looking at where you can legally dump gray water.
Let’s get started!
What Is Gray Water?
Gray water is any liquid that goes down an RV’s sink or shower drain. Most of this water is a soapy mixture from showering, washing dishes, and washing your hands. While most of the water may be soapy, it still contains oils from food, your body, and chunks of food.
So gray water may not be nearly as gross as your black water (sewage), but it’s still pretty horrendous. The longer it’s sat in your tank, the more disgusting it is.
How Often Should You Empty a Gray Water Tank?
You should empty your gray water tank at the end of every trip, especially if you plan to put it in storage. The time you can go before you need to dump your tank depends on many different circumstances. Some RVs have multiple gray tanks, while others have a single tank.
You also have to consider how many people will use your RV and any gray water. The more people using water in your RV, the faster you’ll fill up your tank. We’ve seen people fill up their tanks in a weekend, and others can make their tanks last for weeks. It all depends on how much water you use while in your RV.
Those who want to maximize the time between dumping their gray water tank will look for ways to reduce putting liquids into the tank.
This includes showering less frequently by using body wipes, dumping dish water out instead of putting it down the drain, and finding other hacks to avoid putting water in their gray tank.
Is It Okay to Dump Gray Water Anywhere?
You cannot go dumping your gray water anywhere you want. If you try it in any established campground, you will likely find yourself in trouble with your neighbors and the campground staff. However, dumping gray water on the ground outside of these campgrounds can be somewhat confusing.
Out of the six agencies that manage federal lands, the Bureau of Land Management is the only one that doesn’t take a stance on dumping gray water. BLM’s view is in CFR 8365.1-1, which states it’s okay to empty wash water onto the ground. However, there’s no clear picture or definition as to what exactly “wash water” includes. Even more confusing, state or local ordinances can restrict disposing of gray water on the ground.
So while there are some places where you can legally dump gray water onto the ground, it can be very unclear. If you plan to empty your gray tank onto the ground, it’s best to check with local authorities to ensure you’re not violating local rules or regulations.
How Do You Find RV Dump Stations?
Finding RV dump stations isn’t overly difficult. Once you start looking for them, it’ll surprise you how often you find them and how readily available they are in many places. Using apps like AllStays, Campendium, and iOverlander will give you the best chance of legally scoring a spot to dump your gray water.
We love these apps because they allow users to leave reviews for locations with dump stations. We’ve found many of the reviews to be very helpful, and some have helped us with accessing locations. There’s no telling the placement of a dump station and having some insight from others is helpful when you’re in an unfamiliar area.
Pro Tip: Learn more about how to use the Allstays app to make your camping experience easier.
Where to Look for RV Dump Stations for Gray Water
If you need to dump your tanks, there’s a handful of places we think are worth considering. With the right tools and a little luck, you won’t have to stress about finding an RV dump station. Let’s get started!
Campgrounds and RV Parks
Most established campgrounds and RV parks offer full hookup campsites or have an on-site dump station. Even if you’re not a guest, there’s a good chance they’ll let you dump your tanks for a small fee. However, some campgrounds prefer only to let guests dump their tanks and charge higher rates.
Make sure you call and inquire with the campground regarding access and any fees to use the dump station.
Depending on the nightly fees for the campground, it may be worth reserving a spot at the campground. We’ve seen some campgrounds with dump station fees that are only a few dollars less than the cost of a campsite for the night. If you spend most of your time boondocking, this could be an excellent opportunity to enjoy a long hot shower, charge up your RV batteries, or simply not worry about managing your power usage for a night.
Truck stops are beginning to upgrade their locations to include RV dump stations. This makes it easy to fill up your fuel tank and empty your waste tanks simultaneously. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Many of these locations are listed on Campendium and the other resources we shared for finding dump stations. However, we recommend downloading the apps for the major truck stops and using them. This helps you keep track of your rewards, and you can search for the nearest location and even filter results based on whether they offer a dump station.
They couldn’t possibly make it any easier!
Individual states are responsible for managing the rest stops located along interstates. This is why there’s no consistency in the quality of rest stops or what you can expect when stopping at one. However, some states have RV dump stations at their rest stops where you can dump your gray water and black tanks. These may not be as readily available as other dump stations, but they’re often very easy to access when they are available.
Look for a brown sign with an RV on it. The RV in the picture will have a sewer hose coming out of the bottom and into the ground. Users of the Campendium and the other apps are typically good about adding these locations to the database when they find them.
Many RVers overlook that many state and county fairgrounds often have dump stations. These facilities often host traveling events where organizers travel in RVs and other modes of transportation and require hookups. This means there’s a good chance that your local fairgrounds might have a dump station for your RV.
Again, these are often locations on the apps we’ve shared with you. However, if you know there is a local fairground near you, and you don’t see them on any of the apps, you might have found a dump station you can add to the database. Many county fairgrounds have websites where you can look up information about staying or contacting the management of the fairgrounds.
We’ve come across some outdoor sports locations like Cabela’s that have had dump stations available. These can be hit or miss regarding availability and whether or not they’re functioning. Even if you’ve found one of these locations on Campendium or one of the other apps, it’s worth calling ahead to ensure that the dump station is available and in working order. You don’t want to waste your time or fuel going to a location only to discover that it’s not working.
One advantage of many of these locations is that they often allow you to stay the night in their parking lots. So if you pay to dump your tanks, you can also get a free place to sleep in your RV for the night. It’s not a bad deal!
Pro Tip: Need to empty your RV tanks at home? Use these tips to make it easy.
Be Respectful While Dumping Your Gray Water Tank
Dumping gray water on the ground can be illegal and hazardous to vegetation and wildlife. Remember that you’re likely not just leaving a gallon or two onto the ground. Some RV gray tanks can be 60 to 100 gallons. That’s a lot of water that can cause flooding and damage an area.
Food and oils in your gray water can also attract wildlife to the campsite. This can be dangerous for the wildlife as they begin to see humans as a source for getting food. Depending on the size and aggressiveness of the animal, you could be putting future campers at risk.
We recommend only dumping your gray water into an approved RV dump station. This helps eliminate any chances that you’ll break any laws or regulations. It also helps ensure that you’re not causing any harm to plants and animals in an area.
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