Hooded woman kneeling in the desert looking around as the sun starts to set.

Can I Dump RV Black Water in the Open Desert?

Can I Dump RV Black Water in the Open Desert?

If you’re new to RVing or boondocking, you might be wondering if you can dump your black water in the open desert or on public lands. In this article, we’re diving deeper into the legality of dumping black water on the ground and what kind of fines you could face for illegal dumping. Let’s get into it. 

Hooded woman kneeling in the desert looking around as the sun starts to set.

Can You Dump Black Water in the Desert?

No, you absolutely cannot dump RV black water in the desert. And not only is it illegal, but it’s also gross, disrespectful, hazardous, and irresponsible.

When you’re camping on free and remote public lands, it might seem OK to empty your RV holding tanks. But it’s illegal and very harmful to the environment. Let’s take a closer look at why and what kind of charges you can face for dumping black water on the ground. 

Why Is It Illegal to Dump Black Water on the Ground?

Blackwater is raw sewage, and raw sewage is a biohazard. Raw sewage can contaminate an entire area, including soil, groundwater sources, and more.

It’s a hazard to plant, human, and animal life. Blackwater contains harmful bacteria such as E. Coli, coliform, and more.

Contamination can spread, too. Not only is black water a harmful biohazard, but it also smells terrible.

Caucasian man with beard and sunglasses looks around the open desert with mountains in the background.

Can You Be Fined for Dumping Black Water Illegally? 

Yes, and you can also face jail time. The consequences for dumping black water illegally vary depending on the local laws.

In Los Angeles, you can face a fine of $25,000 and up to a year in jail for dumping human waste. These are steep charges for emptying your tank, and for a good reason. 

Can You Dump Gray Water on the Ground?

Dumping RV gray water on the ground is a hotly contested topic. There are very few instances in which it’s technically “legal,” but even then, it’s frowned upon.

Some BLM land areas allow RVers to dump RV gray water on the ground. That’s only water used for washing, like from your shower or dishes. 

But even where it’s technically legal, it’s not a good thing to do. Gray water stinks and is full of soaps and food particles.

The rush of water causes erosion of sensitive ecosystems, and the soaps kill beneficial bacteria, plant, and animal life. Small food particles attract scavengers and animals that can either become ill or associate humans with food. 

Where Can You Dump RV Black Water?

You should only dump RV black and gray water in approved dumping areas, like an RV dump station or a sewer port at a full hook-up campsite. If you can plug into your home septic system, it’s legal to dump black water at home, too, as long as it’s into an approved receptacle. Never dump your RV black water into a flush or vault toilet. 

You can find legal RV dump stations at full hook-up campsites, in RV parks and campgrounds, and at certain rest stops and gas stations along the highway. You can also sometimes find RV dump stations at RV dealerships and service centers along your travels. 

If you’re boondocking and don’t know where the nearest RV dump station is, there are a few ways to find one. Most RV parks and campgrounds will allow you to come in and use their dump station, usually for a small fee of around $5. Look on your maps app for RV parks and campgrounds in the area and give them a call. 

You can also use an app like RV Dumps by Allstays or dump station filters on websites like Campendium. You can sometimes find RV dump stations at rest areas and gas stations along major interstates and highways. Some are free, and some charge a small fee.

Use a Portable Waste Tank to Make Life Easier

If your RV black or gray tanks fill up sooner than you want to break camp, it can ruin your trip. Luckily you don’t have to break camp to go dump if you don’t want to.

Portable RV waste tanks make your life so much easier. These portable tanks rest on wheels so you can pull them (slowly) to the nearest dump station or put them in a truck bed to transport and dump them legally. Portable RV waste tanks come in many different sizes, so you can get one that matches your RV holding tank capacity. 

Dump Your Tanks Legally and Responsibly

By now, you know that dumping your RV black water on the ground is not only illegal but it’s also a terribly irresponsible thing to do. As RVers, it’s our responsibility to take care of our waste and be stewards of the land we use. Dumping your wastewater is a chore, but it’s one we all have to do. How do you handle dumping your tanks?

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