Clean fresh water is an absolute must have. As free, low cost or off grid campers ensuring we carry enough water for our needs is essential as is using our water efficiently, saving water where and when we can.
Water. Simply put, there is no surviving without it. Caravanning and camping is not possible unless you have fresh water. This is because water meets two of our basic but essential needs:
- Hydration (drinking and cooking)
- Hygiene (cleaning)
Not having enough or access to fresh clean drinking water would mean risking dehydration which at it’s worse can lead to major ill health even death. Dehydration in much of the climates found in Australia can be brought on quicker than you think.
Keeping clean, personal hygiene is important in maintaining good health. Our immune systems, for most of us function to help protect us from nasties so it is necessary to be considerate about cleanliness but not obsessive.
It is necessary then that as travelers in Australia that you carry sufficient water for your needs.
Know Where Water is Available
Clean drinkable water is something most of us are accustomed to having conveniently on tap, so much so we take for it granted. That is until our access to water is limited or difficult. So with water being an absolute must have, it is necessary to be aware of how readily available water is on your travels. Generally speaking water is readily available in cities and towns and becomes less and less so the more rural and remote an area is.
I am going to give some ideas of where to look for water but whenever you do access water unless it is a matter of desperation be very mindful of whose water you are accessing and if it will impact on others. For example there are some communities that provide tank water that is paid for by the community for campers during their stay, this is not water to be used to fill your vans. With the current drought conditions across much of Australia, there are communities running out of water, again unless you’re really in dire straits this is not the place to fill your tanks. Be thoughtful and use some common sense.
Places to find water outside of paid caravan parks can include:
- Some low cost and free campgrounds do have water but isn’t a given
- Local parks and showgrounds
- Water stations. These are set up for industry to use and they pay a fee to the local council each year however many allow the public to use them for free or at a minimal cost for a limited amount of water (eg the one in Gympie QLD is $1 for 200 litres).
Calculating Your Water Needs
How much water should you be carrying? This depends on a few things such as when you can realistically access water again, how many people traveling with you and how you use water. As a bare minimum we use the guide below to decide how much water we need to carry or how long we can go before we need to access a water supply again:
- Drinking: 2 litres per person per day and 1 litre per day for our dog
- Cooking 2 litres per day
- Bathing 2 litres per day per person (when using a washer and a small tub) or 5 – 10 litres per day per person if using a shower (this can varying significantly depending on your shower’s efficiency and how long you and your fellow travellers stand under the shower; this is just a guide)
- Laundry: 10 litres per bucket wash twice a week (for a family with kids this could be significantly more)
- Chemical toilet: 10 litres per week
Based on the above our water needs per week for two people and a dog would be approximately 80 litres per week. I can say realistically we use a little more than 80 litres per week, closer to 100 litres per week. This is very likely because for the most part on our travels so far we have had reasonable access to water so we haven’t really had to be overly careful about our water use. We are not wasteful but we haven’t been stringent either, not yet. How accessible water is will (or it should) influence your behaviours when it comes to using the water you have; more accessible usage is likely to increase and when access is limited then usage is likely to be more stringent and align with water savings.
Water Carrying Capacity
Currently our caravan has a 90 litre tank and we carry an additional 60 litres in water containers for a total water carrying capacity of 150 litres. This gives us about 10 days of water based on our usage of 80 – 100 litres per week. You too should have a good idea of your water carrying capacity and how long your water, based on your usage will last you and when travelling plan accordingly to refill your water supplies.
There are a number of options available for carrying additional water including additional tanks, water bladders (which store away nicely, taking up little space when not being used) and water containers. Whatever option/s are right for you is for you to decided however there is a limit to how much water you can carry, one because of the space it takes up and secondly and most importantly due to the weight water adds to your load. Note and remember that water weighs 1 kg per 1 litre. When at our capacity we are carrying 150kg just in water.
For the purpose of refilling your caravan or camper water tanks and containers is advisable to have a food grade hose and a tap fitting. We also recommend that you research the options available for filtering water that you access or collect. Water borne bugs such as giardia can cause serious illness and filtering your water will greatly aid in ensuring these bugs are removed and your water is fit for consumption.
Learn to Conserve or Save Water
Make the most of your water. Use it wisely and conserve it where and when you can. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Don’t bathe every day.
- Most days do a simple clean of face, hands and feet with a wet washer before bed.
- Do a more thorough bathe every third or so day using a small tub of water (1 – 2 litres of water) and a washer.
- Shower every third or so day.
- Use a tub or bucket in the shower to catch the cold water before the warm water and use the caught water for cleaning and laundry.
- Stand in a large tub while showering and use this water in your chemical toilet or for your laundry.
- Keep shower to a minimum. Get in, get wet, turn off the water, soap and lather up, turn water back on to rinse, turn water off again.
- Join the No Poo movement which is no longer using shampoos or conditioners in your hair allowing its natural oils to keep it clean and shiny. Usually takes a few weeks for your hair to naturally adjust.
- Wear clothing multiple times (except underwear, that should be changed daily). Generally rule I use is:
- socks 2 – 3 days
- t shirts or tops 2 – 3 days
- dresses 3 days
- jeans, shorts or skirts at least a week (or until they can walk on their own)
- jumpers a week of on and off use (especially if only wearing in the evening for a few hours)
- BBQ, fry, bake or steam instead of boiling when cooking.
- Do one pot cooking. Saves on water for cooking and washing up.
- Use water from your shower for your laundry.
- Use wool wash in your laundry wash as it doesn’t need rinsing.
- Do not fill the water reservoir in your chemical toilet used for the ‘flush’ instead have a spray bottle and a small toilet brush. After use and dry flush use the spray bottle to spray the bowl of the toilet and the brush to give it a quick clean.
- Use water collected from your shower wash in your chemical toilet or to do your laundry
You too may have some great ideas. I am a strong advocate for the #waragainstwaste so not a fan of things like using baby wipes even though they can be used to start a campfire.
In summary, be aware and know:
- of your water usage and needs
- how much water you can and should carry and the weight it adds to your load
- how long your water capacity will last you based on your usage
- how and where water is accessible on your travels and if there are any conditions such as water restrictions in town that will limit the availability of water
- how you use water and be doing what you can to save it