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Could Car Washes Be the Answer to Water Conservation?

Posted September 3, 2007

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— In the midst a drought and record water use, Raleigh city leaders are looking at car washes as a place to conserve dwindling supplies.

The City Council is considering requiring all new car washes to run on reclamation systems to recycle water.

Additional equipment would clean chemicals from used water and re-use that water on the next car in line. After a few uses on cars, the water could be re-introduced to the city water system, city officials said.

"We really have to get very serious about conserving our water supply," Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

The average car wash done by hand at homes uses an estimated 140 gallons of water. A car wash using a reclamation system uses around 15 gallons, according to car-wash owners.

Charlie Bell said that he already has a water reclamation system at each of his 14 American Pride car washes. Each system cost around $100,000, but Bell said the cost was worth it.

"Anything that we can save, recycle, conserve, reclaim - we should be doing it," he said.

The systems provide water that is almost clean as that out of the tap, with dirt and oil from dirty cars filtered out, said American Pride employee Michael Wells.

"The particles and such in the water sink to the bottom, and the oil rises and floats to the top," Wells said. "We take the water out of the middle of it that is going to be the cleanest water."

Suzanne Dorsey said water recycling helps keep her coming back to American Pride car washes.

"I feel like it is better for the environment," she said.

The Council is also considering incentives to make the cost of the reclamation systems less prohibitive to car-wash owners.

The idea came up in a review by the Raleigh Water Conservation Task Force and remains in committee for discussion.

100 Comments

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  • HangOn Sep 4, 2007

    many already do it. it helps.

  • Joy4u2 Sep 4, 2007

    Also did you know that a well kept clean waxed car gets better gas milage less drag on the car through the air, yes I like my car clean also.

  • dws Sep 4, 2007

    WRAL had the story on today's noon news, STILL quoting the inaccurate car wash association numbers

  • jon2four Sep 4, 2007

    it only takes 6 gallons of water to wash and rense a car by hand if you use a bucket.I do it all the time .

  • Fun Sep 4, 2007

    Maybe the city should give a "propety tax credit" for 10 years to any car wash operating or new car wash constructed that recycles water AND can wash a car with 5 gallons. Of course you would have "trust, but verify" and have "reverse" credits for noncompliance...and probably a "water police department" Gosh just more and more and more government!!

  • Waterrox Sep 4, 2007

    The only reason car washes do not use reclaimed water in their facilities is because of the front end cost. Most, if not all, recycle car washes have been deemed permitted by the State, so their is no government involvement, as long as they follow 15A NCAC 2T .1003(a)(3)

    "Recycling of wash and rinse water at vehicle wash facilities provided the wastewater is contained within concrete, steel or synthetic structures (i.e. not including earthen basins), all vehicle washing is conducted under roof and there are no precipitation inputs (direct or indirect), and the facility develops and maintains a spill control plan in the event of a wastewater release."

    Simple enough. It won't end the water crunch, but every drop helps.

    Also, as someone noted above, a lot of water is wasted from leaky sinks and toilets. Put some food dye in your toilet tank and check the bowl in an hour or so. If your water is colored, then you need to fix your toilet.

    Simple fixes will help this complex problem.

  • shine Sep 4, 2007

    It is gonna be another HOT, DRY, week - so if someone is going to make a decision about water - the next hour is critical. This is going to get disasterous -

  • eastof raliegh Sep 4, 2007

    A news report I saw today said approximately 50 percent of water is used for watering lawns. Hey! here's a idea for you city leaders, "tell people to stop watering their lawns at the first sign of a drought" !! All this "water on the third to foruth hour of the second day of alternating weeknds and holidays" mess didnt work. Water in our homes and businesses is more important that water on our plants and yards !!

    When will people wake up and turn off their sprinklers? It won't be long that fire chiefs and scene commanders will face the very real horror of a decision to allow buildings to burn solely to keep water in the pipes.

  • Salty Sep 4, 2007

    I think the problem is over-flushing of toilets. if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down! hahaha

  • Deep thoughts Sep 4, 2007

    Perhaps the car washes should be shut down all together during times of drought. I can't see how cars are getting damagingly dirty on paved roads. Washing your car is important if you live at the coast and it is also important in areas where the roads are salted in the winter. September in Raleigh doesn't fall into either category.

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