Water usage on the road

By: Kath Heiman, Photography by: Kath Heiman

If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re terrified of the prospect of a day without a hot shower, you should probably stay at home!

Water usage on the road
One hundred litres in less than 30 hours? That’s ridiculous! But this shows how easily it can happen

We recently got back from a quick weekender with friends near Wee Jasper, at the foot of the Brindabella Mountains, NSW, to celebrate my 45th birthday. There was plenty to enjoy: caving, fishing, bushwalking and canoeing – and some pretty notable moments. But, perhaps, the thing that will stick most in my mind is that – in just over a day – we managed to entirely empty the 100L water tank in our Kavango camper trailer!

One hundred litres in less than 30 hours? That’s ridiculous! But this shows how easily it can happen. 

On this occasion, the water usage was partly attributable to drinking water and a couple of sessions of washing up. Combined, this accounted for about 15L of water. But it was the high-pressure water pump and two showers each for my little girl and I that demolished the remaining 85L. And, thinking about it, it’s not surprising. If we consider that standard domestic showerheads can use as much as 15L of water a minute, it would take only five minutes to knock-off 85L. Obviously, our camper’s shower doesn’t punch through this much water, but the effect of four showers was the same.

The fact is that, when we’re sitting in our campers surrounded by all the modern conveniences, it’s easy to slip into our regular habits from home. With a bit of carelessness, we’ll be leaving the water running while shampooing our hair or brushing our teeth, and changing the washing-up water when it gets lukewarm. Before we know it, the reserve water supply in the camper, vehicle and jerries will have rapidly diminished.

During our recent weekend trip, I realised that I was using more water than was absolutely necessary. We were close to civilisation, we were only away for three days and I knew there was another 50L of fresh water stored in the flexi-tank water bladder behind the back seat of the HiLux. And, besides, it was my birthday. 

But I can assure you of this – the next time we head bush, I’ll be applying quite a different mindset to the issue of water discipline. I’m well aware that if we’re travelling in remote regions, our vehicle and camper might be the only source of fresh water for four to five days straight. The quantity of drinking water that we’ll require over this period will be determined – not by how much water we’ve loaded into our rig – but by what we’re doing and in what temperature. 

So, if the weather’s hot, and we’re moderately active, we’re probably looking at a combined fluid intake requirement for the three of us (two adults and a child) of around 20L per day. At that rate, we’d drink the full 100L of water stored in the camper trailer within five days. This would leave the 50L in the HiLux available for a bit of housekeeping but, more importantly, it would be the water reserve if we got stuck. 

So the camper’s 12V pump shower will be staying ‘off’ – and instead I’ll be reaching for the SpaTap bottle shower. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it.

This prospect doesn’t bother me in the least. Back in the 80s, travelling outback with my family in an FJ40 Shorty, our only water supply existed in a couple of jerries on the roof. We got by with ‘Wet Ones’ wipe downs and dips in waterholes when we were lucky enough to find them. Yes, we got a bit dirty. 

But if we’ve gotten to the point where we’re terrified of the prospect of a day without a hot shower, we should probably stay at home.

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Check out the full feature in issue #93 October 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.