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Where does the dishwater go?

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In the Cub Scout thread the question is asked about where to pour dishwater after washing up and it was said to dig a hole and pour it in.


Couple of years ago at Outdoor Leader Skills, I was taught that method had been changed and we are now supposed to sling the water so as to dispurse it over a large area.


Which is correct?

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The reason that digging a hole is no longer best practice is that it doesn't fit into the Leave No Trace philosophy. By the same token, simply slinging the water about doesn't fit into the Leave No Trace philosophy either, though it is much closer to good practice.


Digging a hole was encouraged at one time so that food waste in the dishwater could be buried. Simply slinging the water around means whatever food waste is in the water will be spread out over a (relatively) wide area, and likely be caught up in the leaves and branches of plants that happen to get in the way of the water. Best practice is to strain the dishwater through cheesecloth to filter out food waste, then carefully pour the water out of the containers at ground level, at a tree line if possible, and disposing of your cheesecloth bundle with your trash.



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Yah, the answer depends, eh?


What you do depends a lot on what environment you're campin' in. Eastern deciduous forest? Western arid or desert? Whitwater river corridor riparian shore? Summer? Winter? Yeh try to do what will damage the least.


Some of the best helps for trying to decide what's best for the area you're campin' in you can get cheap from the Leave No Trace organization:


For frontcountry camping:http://store.lnt.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=FC

For backcountry areas: http://store.lnt.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=BL.



In most areas, especially frontcountry, burying isn't a great strategy. It concentrates impact, makin' it hard for the local microbes to do their job quickly. Local critters will often dig up the area shortly after you leave, which leaves a mess and habituates the critters to humans=food, which makes 'em a nuisance. And of course, you disturb the soil there.


As a loose generic suggestion, I'd offer:


1. Learn to cook portions small so that everything gets eaten; learn to clean with just the water you need, no extra.

2. Eat everything (or, bag and pack out leftovers). Leave no noodles!

3a.Best: Clean with hot water, drink swill water, deposit nothin'.

3b.Next best: Strain grey water, pack out scraps.

(1)If at a developed campsite, put grey water in container and toss in dumpster, or..

(2)Sump grey water in fire pit

(3)If in backcountry, "fling" and distribute greywater widely.

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I'm not a big fan of 'drinkin' da swill water'. Beavah's other suggestions are great, as always.


Here's another suggestion:


When the food comes off the fire (or stove), put on wash water with detergent and rinse water. Some people even like a third pot with bleach or sanitizer in it, so have 3 going if you like.


After eating all you can from the bowl, dish, plate, whatever, Use 1 or 2 squares of toilet paper, we'll call it All Purpose paper now. Wipe out as much as possible. Then using another 1 or 2 squares of AP paper, continue wiping. Wipe until the bowl, plate, pot, pan, whatever looks like it's clean. There should be no visible remnant of food. Then and only then, take the item to the soapy water and using a brush with a handle, dunk the brush not the item and scrub the item away from the pot, say, over the fire ring, return the brush to the soapy water and repeat if needed. Go to the rinse water and using a serving type spoon, collect some water and pour or drizzle it over the item, not dunking the item. If you are using a third pot with bleach or sanitizer, you may dunk the item. Allow to air dry, and you're done. When you're done, the rinse water is clean and the soapy water is alittle dirty, not bad, not bad enough to be a concern. Pack out the AP paper.


If you are using camp stoves, use hot pot tongs ( or the tool of choice)to move the pots away from your cooking area.


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  • 3 months later...

The easy answer is to simply bring along a good strainer, and strain out all the food particles from the dishwater, put them in the trash and dispose of the water on the ground surface. This is the industry standard on Western American Rivers, and will work fine for commisary type cooking and dishwashing.



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Personal dishes...Scooby Do them. Eat everything you put in them, then clean the dish with your tongue. Put one drop of soap on it, wash and rinse with clean water. Dump water away from water sources.


Crew dishes...Happy spoon em. Pass the pot and everybody takes a mouthful until its gone. If any left, scrap the remaining into your trash bag to pack out. Wash with minimum soap necessary.

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Some great advice here already!!


On occasion, there are soooo many Scouters out there. Either we have developed our own practices, that are hard to change to a different method. BSA training courses offer great opportunities to learn the actual BSA literature and practices, as well as exchange some personal ideas and strategies. When I instruct, I occasionally speak about myself in the third person and I usually state this is a Crew21'ism, and these are my own concerns, thoughts and practices. Most of the BSA literature is a guide, rather than a law. Some items offer no interpretation; some items may allow the program to be modified to suit the needs. I.E. a Troop that camps feet away from the tailgate of a truck and a Troop that is extreme High Adventure and extreme Leave No Trace.


Regarding what was read in the Cub Scout part of the forum and what was taught in Outdoor Leadership Skills, it may be more stated Which is more correct? Which is more effective? Rather than, Which is correct?


From the Cub Scouters within this forum you may have read to dig a pit, from your Outdoor Leadership Skills you were told to sling the water and disperse it. Even in some Scouting literature, there are minor conflicts. I understand in the Scout Handbook it directs the three washbasin method to bleach the second water washbasin, in the BSA fieldbook it directs to bleach the third water washbasin. I've even heard that the literature conflicts with a cold rinse and a hot rinse depending on which manual.


With so many online resources, and literature around. Most Troops may have a Scoutmasters Library at their Scouthut, at least with the Scoutmaster Handbook, Scout Handbook, and the BSA Fieldbook. Recently, there is a webpage companion for the BSA Fieldbook. Here is the most correct answer, I can find in the literature.




Wastewater. Help prevent contamination of natural water sources: After straining food particles, properly dispose of dishwater by dispersing at least 200 feet (about 80 to 100 strides for a youth) from springs, streams, and lakes. Use biodegradable soap 200 feet or more from any water source.



Now for my advice. "Crew21'ism" I have heard this works as an alternative for a grease pit, and maybe used as a dishwater strainer. I have been told to carry a small "sack lunch" paper bag. After dining, fill the bag with leaves, and tear a small hole in the bottom. Use this leaf filled bag as a strainer, and then later deposit the paper bag onto the warming campfire for disposal. I have not had the opportunity to try this yet, but it does seem reasonable.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv


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Like t'was said it depends...


A point not mentioned as yet...in many "developed campsites" (many National Park campgrounds, State or County camps...grey water must be "contained and carried to approved dump stations". Flinging or pouring even strained grey water can get you a hefty ticket in many parks...so be careful and check the "regs" for the area you plan to camp in...better to know before hand and save yourself an expensive lesson.


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anarchist is right. Be careful and know the regulations of the LMA where you are camping.

If so required, you will have to pack it out if in the Back country.

If you are allowed to disperse it:


1) As mentioned before, do it at least 200 feet away from water sources.


2) Also do it 200 feet away from your campsite to prevent attracting unwanted visitors.


3) The same with your trash bags and bear bags


Create a triangle. Camp here at Point A, kitchen and food bear bag at Point B, and disposal site (grey water, cat holes) at Point C. Each at least 200 feet away from each other.


If car camping, it gets easier if we are not lazy. Haul the grey water to a disposal/dump station.


Last year at NOAC, the TOAP site had several great ideas. One of the easiest was to use pantie hose for the strainer. After straining, they went into a plastic Ziploc until needed again. Very lightweight and compatible.

Another idea for grey water disposal was to have a 10 or 20 gallon holding tank built into the troops trailer. When you are finished with cleanup and the water is strained, it's dumped in the tank and disposed of at the parks disposal site.


AS for Beavahs swill drink, Scooby the plate/pot, etc first. Then add a small amount of H2O to the pot or bowl (about a cup or two), swish it around (use your spoon or fork if needed) and drink the soup. Homemade V8. Then all that is needed is a dab of Biodegradable soap and a little H2O for rinse, and your done. Just make enough to eat so there isn't any leftovers. Supplement with trail mix, jerky etc. if your still hungry.


Bon Appetite

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Great advice here.


Now, as to the capabilities of any one campsite,...


The day is done when a group of people could go to a camp, set up shop, have fun, and then pack up and go home. Some leader (if Boy Scouts or Venturing, preferably with a couple of youth) really should make a site visit. Find out the preferred practices, if any.


Even on a backcountry expedition, there is a NFS, NPS, State or local ranger station responsible for that area. The rangers can give great advice.


If not, follow best practices of LNT.

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Lots of good advise here, thanks guys.

We had a question come up this weekend with my Crew. We had a tripod hand wash station setup with a bucket to catch gray water. The crew had a huge discussion on what was the best way to get rid of the gray water ( no food particles, bio soap ); fling it, bury it or save it to put out the campfire. In the end they used it on the campfire even though some kids were adamant about that being an inappropriate disposal of gray water.



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