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Ways to minimize use of water

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NOTE: Content here are my personal opinions, and not intended to represent any employer (past or present). “PROTIP:” here highlight information I haven’t seen elsewhere on the internet because it is hard-won, little-know but significant facts based on my personal research and experience.

As of September 1, 2021, Lake Mead in California (the largest man-made lake in the US) is at 37% of its capacity. And there are record-setting 120 F temparatures in Washington and Canada.

At my spread in Montana, the well and spring is producing less water than before.

So this article is about how we’re experimenting with ways to live with less water: AWS Infrastructure Event Management (IEM)

Recirculating Shower

Pioneering recreational vehicle enthuiasts have built equipment which recirculate, clean, and reheat water so “long hot” showers can be enjoyed with just 3 gallons of water.

Advanced RV (advanced-rv.com) has an app to monitor their system:



Minimal water dish washing

Paper plates and bowels can be thrown away after use, but that creates a disposal problem (no landfills for you). Dry conditions make burning of trash potentially catasphoric.

US FDA’s guidelines include not using a towel to dry dishes (it’s more sanitary to let them air dry).

The Boy Scout Handbook (page 308) shows how to use 3 bins (like VIDEO: at restaurants and bars*):

  1. Bring

    • Ground cloth
    • A portable table
    • An overhead tent
    • Chord of rope to hang towels and dishes

    • Several towels
    • Clips to hold towels on the rope
    • Mesh bag or lightweight hammock for air-drying

    • Four large (light-weight) tubs to hold hot water
    • A pot to boil water
    • A cistern to hold enough water
    • A stove to boil water
    • Enough fuel to boil water
    • Mechanical or laser thermometer

    • Rubberized tongs to hold plates and spoons for dipping into the hot rinse
    • Gloves that can be used in hot water
    • Waterproof apron to avoid being scaled by hot water splashed on yourself

    • Biodegradable dish soap
    • Bleach or sanitizing tablets
    • Ph test strips (to test sanitizer bath)

    • Plastic bags to hold food waste (one for each meal)
    • Silicon scraper to remove food from plates
    • Dish brush/scrubbers
    • Bottle brush (to wash inside cups and bottles)

    • Drain board



  2. Minimizing dishwashing time starts with menu planning. Meals that use one pot and few food-prep utensils will leave less mess afterward.

  3. Use as few dishes and utensils as possible. One bowl, one mug and one spork will be all you’ll need for most meals.

  4. Create a schedule for testing and changing water to make it easier for staff to remember.

  5. Find a dishwashing spot that’s at least 200 feet away from any sources of water.

  6. Over a ground tarp, setup a tent (if available), and a table.

  7. Identify where waste water will be placed.

    Wash hands

  8. Put on apron.

  9. Wash hands.

    Never use your 3 sink basin as a mop or hand washing station.

  10. Hang up towels to dry.

  11. Ensure that each basin is clean and sanitized prior to filling them.

  12. Setup three tubs next to each other, labeled “SCRAPS”, “WASH”, “RINSE”, “SANITIZE”.

    The SANITIZE tub should be the largest tub.

  13. In the “SCRAPS” tub, line with plastic trash bag.

  14. In the “RINSE” tub, fill with cold water and place a few drops of bleach or a sanitizing tablet (like Steramine).

  15. Heat hot wash water to 120 degrees before you sit down to eat.

  16. In the “WASH” tub, add hot water and biodegradable soap (quarter once per 5 gallons of water). Your instinct will be to use more soap than you actually need.*

  17. Drop one sanitizer tablet in the “SANITIZE” tub.

  18. Refill the “WASH” water between 95 - 120 degrees.

  19. Refill the “RINSE” and “SANITIZE” water hot at 170 degrees*.


  20. Literally lick your plate clean. At Scout camp, this is perfectly acceptable behavior.*

  21. To avoid overwhelming the dish pot with food particles, use the silicon scraper to scrape clean dishes as much as possible before placing them into the wash pot.

  22. Use tongs to hold dishes while dipping into hot water.

  23. Dip cups in water heel (bottom) first.

    If the water doesn’t come off in sheets, there is still oily residue on the glass.

  24. Don’t leave dishes in the WASH bin.

  25. Soak dishes in SANITIZER tub for at least one minute.

  26. Hang or place utensils and dishes to dry.

    Never towel dry glass or dishes.*


  27. Seal the bag holding scraps and store overnight like it’s food. It can attract pets, ants, rodents, bears, etc.

  28. DO NOT dispose of SANITIZE water in a septic tank.

  29. Dispose of soapy wash water by spreading widely at least 200 feet (about 10 steps) away from any water source.

Waterless shampoo

To get rid of the grease (and stink) in our hair, try a powder to use instead of water.


Filtering water from rivers & springs

Recirculating shower

For people living in vans (and astronauts), there is a “closed loop” recirculation system that cleans water with recycling pump and ultraviolet lights for a “forever hot” shower.

VIDEO: They recommend a switch to use either fresh water (for first and last rinse) rather than recirculated water.

Flow of water:

  • Gone Bookdocking “hour shower” in a box with Anti-Scald valve an 8 GPM sprinker head, get heat from the car’s radiator or black bag
    1. 12 Battery to power the pumps
    2. Fresh water tank
    3. Fresh water pump
    4. Switch between fresh and recirculated water
    5. Anti-Scald valve

    6. Valve flow control to showerhead
    7. Shower hose
    8. Showerhead

    9. Hair catcher
    10. Drain
    11. Gray water pipes
    12. Check valves

    13. 5 gallon recirc. water tank (with drain plug)
    14. 50 micron strainer
    15. (Dry) Pump to draw

    16. 5 micro activated charcoal filter
    17. 5 micron pleated filter
    18. KVF filter
    19. 20 micron pleated filter
    20. 6.5 - 16 GPM UV filter to kill bacteria to 1 micron
    21. Pipes to shower head
    22. Heat exchanger (with digital thermometer)
    23. Showerhead

    24. Biodegradeable soap
    25. Epsom salt separates soap from water

VIDEO: Wanda Tales recirculates 5 gallons of water going through 3 different filters, cleaned once a month after a shower a week, replaced once each year:

Copper tubing is most hygenic. Add a heater?

Large Cisterns

70 gallon drum treated with chemical. algae

NOTE: The blue color is to signal that the contents are “potable” (drinkable).