Part 1: NEVER Buy New - and Other RV Choices

Part 2: Converting the Back Bedroom into Our Workroom

Part 3: Hydraulic Jacks - Sleeping and Working on the Level

Part 4: Electricity on the Go - Charging our Batteries

Part 5: Computing, Staying Connected, Entertainment, and Junk Mail

Part 6: Making our RV a Home

Part 7: Water and Sewage and Germs - Oh My!

Part 8: Solar Power - Expanded

Google Places and Platypie

Part 7: Living in our Ark

Water and Sewage and Germs - Oh My!

RV Life: Water and Sewage and Germs

I know many people are germaphobes and rightly so, but Peg and I both grew up swimming in the questionable waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River near Annapolis, MD. We have endlessly been around kids, employees, dogs and cats with the attendant volume of dirt, germs and bodily wastes, etc. On the road, we very seldom get sick and have developed our own way of handling water and sewage.

Water Supply

When you carry a big tank of water with you, and use it only when you are unhooked, wisdom dictates that you apply water treatments, tank clean-outs, hose flushes and faucet connector scrubbing. We don’t do any of that. When leaving a campground, we always top off the water tank - you never know - and every few months, we find ourselves boondocking (not hooked up in a campground) for a week or so, and though we take Navy showers along with our regular water use and reliable baby wipes, our water tank can go empty. At that point, we carry or buy water in gallon containers for bathroom use until we hook up again. This doesn’t bother us at all since our last smaller camper was also our car in NYC, and in winter we always drained the water systems and ONLY poured water by hand when using the RV. So an empty water tank is no big deal since we generally head for a campground. By the way, you need a special drinking water hose to connect to water so you don’t get a rubber taste.

RV Life: Water and Sewage and Germs

Speaking of freezing, there is generally no place open up north to drain during winter… and since our pipes, water and drainage tanks are in use all the time, THAT means we hang around sub-freezing temperatures at our peril! Freezing water tubes and connections cause leaks in hidden places and leaks will rot a motor home right out from under you before you notice. You can’t replace the underfloor in an RV without removing the RV first - forget about it.

Black Water and Gray Water

Black Water is the nice term for the toilet waste. Gray water is from showers and sinks. RV toilets don’t have a water trap, so you want smells at a minimum. Therefore, when hooked up in a campground, we keep the drain hose - which looks like a long Slinky - hooked up but the big drain valves closed. We open the outer dump valves every couple days or so, keeping our drainage tanks pretty empty. But when we have been out for awhile, if the black water ever gets full, EVERYTHING STOPS and we find a dump station anywhere - at a campground, at certain truck stops and Rest Areas, or, in extremis, a sewage treatment plant where the commercial septic trucks go… yuck (but this has only ever happened once 30 years ago).

A Variety of Sewage Connections

Generally you know what you are walking into - a drain with a cap at ground level close to the camper pad. However, there are exceptions like sewage connections elevated above the ground making it hard to drain downhill into them when your hose has to run along the ground below them. In this case, we have to build up under the hose or use house gutter sections we carry as a ramp.

For drains located at one end or the other of the parking space - i.e. far way from our drain valve outlet, we carry an extension hose and just back up until it reaches…

Step by Step Dumping

Our process for draining the tanks and keeping them and the hose reasonably clean is as follows:

Hooking up to Sewer Drains:

NOW is the important piece.

1) Open the black water valve and drain all the sewage.

2) When sewage stops running, leave it open and just open the gray water valve for about 5 seconds then close it again. - This will backflush gray water into the sewage tank and give it a rinse.

3) When the backflush stops running out, close the black water valve for good then reopen the gray water valve to drain the rest of the gray water.

4) Finally, close the gray water valve and go back to using your systems normally.


If you are putting the hose away to travel, disconnect from the RV end first and rinse the inside with a hose. Whether at a dump station or a campground hookup, there is always rinsing water available.

Disconnect the sewer end and use low pressure water to rinse those parts too. Accordion up the whole dump hose, store it and the support thingy around the drain valve. This can be a splashy affair so, if you don’t wear surgical gloves, once done, just wash up or use Purell.

Water and Electric Hookups

In campgrounds, there is usually a pedestal on each camper site which houses circuit breakers and the electric plugs - 50Amp, 30Amp(ours), and regular 20Amp plugs. If staying monthly, the electric is usually read from a meter.

Near the same pedestal is usually the fresh water faucet. The water pressure can be quite high, so investing in a pressure regulator will save something in your system blowing out. We use a quick-connect coupler, keeping one half on the camper and the other on the water hose works really well and gives us the same water pressure all the time.

See? That wasn’t so bad! Easy and clean and all the comforts of home.

Looks and sounds daunting! Difficult to understand when one lives in a place where the black and grey just disappear at the flick of a switch. I sometimes wonder, for a moment, where it all goes, but then continue my life of blissful ignorance. Pioneers you are, for sure, and I salute you!


Sounds like a big job. It was easier for me in Vietnam, just burn baby burn. The shower was a bit harder. We had to keep filling the 55 gallon drums. Once upside there was never a problem with freezing. During the monsoon season we didn't need showers, only a bar of soap & a washcloth.


You are new age pioneers!! Intelligent, creative, ingenious, wonderful! I so love this! I love you two even more! Think of you and miss you every single day.


Questions? Feeedback?