Local News

Could Car Washes Be the Answer to Water Conservation?

Posted September 3, 2007 12:43 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2007 8:19 p.m. EDT

— 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.