by Susan Murphy
1- You can fill your tank with water from just about any source, then sanitize it by adding 5cc of chlorine bleach per 10 gallons. When you want to use it for drinking or cooking, run it through a Brita filter to take out the chlorine. Both of us are nurses, so we are vigilant about safe health practices, and we can testify that it works great - we've been doing this for 10 years with no problems.
You may have concerns about using chlorine, but you're using so little, a miniscule fraction of the commercial amounts that cause problems in the environment. For dish washing or bathing when we're boondocking, we draw up a basin of water from a lake or stream, let the particulates settle out, then carefully decant it, leaving the particulates behind, and add the bit of chlorine bleach to sanitize it.
2- We keep a big Listerine bottle bungeed to the side of the toilet for flushing when we're boondocking. We feel it's okay to fill it from any ambient water source. We don't worry about stray microbes in our blackwater tank because our own microbes and the ones we put in to digest the matter in the tank should take care of them (and we are super-careful about aseptic technique when we're draining the tanks). Somebody else gave the good advice that, if you put water in the toilet before you poop, it takes a lot less to flush afterwards; we've always used this technique.
3- We never use our water heater, to conserve propane. When we need hot water for dishwashing or spongebathing, we heat it in our teakettle. It makes you even more aware of using as little as possible.
4- Here's a technique I developed for using less water when spongebathing: put soap only on one corner of the washcloth, so you only have to rinse the soap out of that one corner, instead of the whole washcloth.
5- To conserve space in our blackwater tank, we don't flush toilet paper. Paper that is damp with urine, we just toss in the little plastic garbage bag that's right outside the toilet door. Paper that's pooped, we fold up and wrap with more toilet paper, the way you would do with a sanitary napkin, and toss it in the garbage. We change our garbage bag every day, tying up the old one and stashing it in the truck until we find a place to dump it. We never have a problem with odor.
I like the suggestions about using sealed plastic ice cubes (also less chance of spill in the freezer, and a good space-saver) and about carrying collapsible water jugs to get water when it's available (one caution: they're not always reliably water-tight when they're full - I'd suggest to keep in a basin in case of leaks). Thanks!