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Can I Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground While RV Camping?

| Updated Feb 17, 2024

The answer is usually NO, you cannot legally dump gray water on the ground. But here's everything you need to know…

RVing has a big advantage over tent camping: a mobile restroom and kitchen. You get to take water with you and bathe and wash wherever you go. 

As RVers are self-contained and carry or connect to their own water supply, they also have to dispose of their wastewater in a responsible and legal manner. 

This leads to the question: Can you legally dump gray water on the ground while camping? 

The answers depend on what kind of land you are on and state laws, but we’ll try to clear it up as much as possible.

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What Is RV Gray Water?

Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground

First, let's quickly define RV gray water (aka graywater or grey water). RV gray water is the wastewater generated from the shower, bathroom sink, and kitchen sink, excluding toilet waste. 

It is different from black water, which is sewage from the toilet. Gray water can contain soap, shampoo, and small food particles, making it a potential environmental hazard if not disposed of properly.

So, Is It Legal to Dump Gray Water on the Ground?

In most states, it is illegal to dump gray water on the ground. However, some states do allow it, but typically with very specific restrictions. 

For instance, Arizona allows you to dump gray water on your private land with exclusions, such as water from a kitchen sink, dishwasher, and more.

Instead, RVers are required to dispose of gray water in approved dumping stations or through alternative methods, such as using a private septic tank or recycling system. There are ways to dump RV tanks at home.

You must research specific states to determine local dumping laws.

Why Is It Mostly Illegal?

There are good reasons for gray water dumping regulations. Notably, gray water can contain chemicals and other contaminants that can harm the environment and pollute rivers, streams, and groundwater. 

Dumping gray water on the ground can also attract wildlife and insects, leading to environmental imbalances. That’s why sink water and dishwater, especially, are almost never allowed to be dumped on the ground.

It’s Frowned Upon Regardless of Legality

It’s worth noting that dumping gray water on the ground is widely frowned upon, even in areas where it is legal. Dumping gray water goes against the “Leave No Trace” pledge all RVers and campers are encouraged to take. 

So, it’s best to dump gray water at a dump station or sewage facility, even when you can legally dump it on the ground.

Approved Dumping Stations

Most RV parks and campgrounds have dumping stations where RVers can dispose of their gray water and black water. These dumping stations are designed to handle wastewater properly and prevent environmental damage. 

The dumping stations usually have a sewer connection, and RVers can use a hose to empty their tanks.

We have to main resources to help you find RV dump stations:

Alternative Methods for Disposing of Gray Water

If you do not have access to a dumping station, you can use alternative methods for disposing of gray water. The main alternatives are:

  • Connect to a Public Sewer Connection
  • Connect to a Private Septic Tank
  • Connect to an Above Ground Septic Tank
  • Use the Bucket Method

Read more about each of these alternatives.

Consequences of Illegally Dumping Gray Water

Illegally dumping gray water on the ground can result in fines and legal consequences. Depending on the state, fines for illegally dumping gray water can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. The RV owner may also be required to pay for the cleanup and restoration of the affected area.

Additionally, illegal dumping of gray water can harm the environment and pose health risks to people and animals. It can also negatively impact the RV camping experience for others, as it can lead to foul odors and unsanitary conditions.

5 Tips for Reducing Gray Water Usage

Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground

One of the best ways to responsibly manage gray water while RV camping is to reduce your overall usage. Not only does this help conserve water, but it also reduces the amount of gray water that needs to be disposed of. 

Here are some tips for reducing your gray water usage:

1. Take shorter showers

Consider using a low-flow showerhead or even take “Navy showers” to reduce the amount of gray water generated. A Navy shower is when you turn the water off between wetting and rinsing.

You should also check out How to Take a GOOD Shower in an RV (Is It Even Possible?!)

2. Use Biodegradable Soaps and Shampoos

This is more of a best practice than a water-saving tip, but it’s worth mentioning. Choose environmentally friendly, biodegradable soaps and shampoos that won't harm the environment when they're disposed of.

These eco-friendly products are ideal whether you’re dumping at a station or legally dumping on the ground.

3. Wash Dishes with Minimal Water

Try using a dishpan or basin to wash dishes, and use minimal water to rinse them off. This collapsible dish tub is a great option for RVs.

4. Use Compostable Paper Plates and Utensils 

If you really need to conserve water, you can bypass dishwashing by using compostable paper plates and utensils. They are a great eco-friendly alternative to standard disposable dish sets.

5. Fix Any Leaks

A drop in the bucket does, in fact, add up over time. Check your RV's plumbing for leaks, and fix any leaks immediately to prevent water waste.

By implementing these tips and tricks, you can significantly reduce your overall gray water usage and help ensure you're a responsible RVer.

Can I Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground While RV Camping? 1

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Next: The Stinky Truth About RV Toilet Paper & Black Tank Sensors

This may be an indelicate subject, but the matter of choosing the right RV toilet paper and understanding your RV’s black tank sensors are critically important to your enjoyment of the RV Lifestyle.

So, being as tactful as possible, let’s talk about this unavoidable reality of RVing. Read more…

How to Use an RV Macerator

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It's time to dump! Emptying your black and gray RV tanks may sound like a messy hassle but it's a lot simpler than you think. Follow along these 5 easy steps to operating your macerator pump and safely drain both the black and gray water tanks.


Can I Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground While RV Camping? 2
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Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-02-17

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

12 Responses to “Can I Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground While RV Camping?”

September 11, 2023at5:26 pm, Louise Huot said:

Our neighbor has his camper on the lot next door to my house (zoning is residential) which is against Bylaw regulations. I thought he’d be removing it today since it’s been reported but no, instead, he winterizes it and dumps his tanks onto the ground. I realize most RVers are considerate and responsible people but this situation sure has left a bad taste in my mouth for campers in general.

Reply

September 12, 2023at4:30 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Sorry that happened to you, Louise – Most campers definitely don’t do that.
Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

April 15, 2023at2:38 pm, Howard Griffith said:

Hmmmm… Some RVers have outdoor showers from their van or motor home that allows them to take quick outdoor showers with soaps and shampoos creating graywater as they bathe… However, this is not looked upon as dumping graywater. Things that make you say hmmm!

Reply

April 15, 2023at3:16 pm, Hung Lo said:

Hmm.

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April 17, 2023at9:47 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

This is true! Thanks for sharing, Howard – Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

April 14, 2023at3:37 pm, Larry Smith said:

Dumping in camp locations multi use the ground don’t hane enough time to dry before the next camper has to deal with your mess also campsites are often close to waterways not allowing filtering through soil before water contact.tent campers disperses water more diversely

Reply

April 14, 2023at7:23 pm, wendy peters caivano said:

yes indeed – totally agree. one time only – in order to lighten our load home – I ONLY used camp suds – and used a bucket to dump out some grey tank and absolutely dispersed it AWAY from the camp site just as I would had I been tent camping :0

Reply

April 15, 2023at9:47 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Excellent points – thanks for sharing, Larry — Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

April 14, 2023at11:09 am, wendy peters said:

so my only question is – when we tent camp – we have no grey tanks… we use camp suds and wash our dishes in that – and we have NO place to ‘dump’ it so we scatter it somewhere (technically – this IS grey water)…. so – if I was boondocking and were to only wash my camping dishes in camp suds while rv camping – what is the difference? same dishes, same camp suds, and same wash water…. (I would NOT take long showers, accumulate gallons of grey water in this situation – just dishes)…

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April 15, 2023at9:46 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Hi Wendy – Most campgrounds require tent campers to wash their dishes at a site usually near the bathhouse. A boondocker on federal land in a tent carrying in their own water, and then using that water to wash dishes, would be an unusual situation but perhaps an excellent question for the RVLifestyle Facebook group. Happy Trails! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

April 14, 2023at8:41 am, Robert Barclay said:

The toilet is another heavy water use part of your rv. Of purse that water goes into the black tank. Nevertheless, consider switching to compost. Not for everyone, but they make a significant difference. There are several alternatives.

Reply

April 15, 2023at9:43 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing, Robert – excellent tip! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

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