Local News

Raleigh looks to keep car washes clean of water controversy

Posted May 14, 2008 11:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2008 3:31 p.m. EDT

— As the level of Falls Lake has gone up, talk about the drought has tapered off, but discussions about water use continue. Raleigh officials are revisiting how much water car washes should be allowed to use.

Under the toughest water restrictions, certified car washes could use 55 gallons per wash. During that same time, residents were being asked to use just 35 gallons a day.

"It should be the other way around. It should be 55 gallons per person,” car wash owner Fred Gardner said.

A City Council committee voted Wednesday to let the Water Conservation Task Force study the issue. Some people argue 55 gallons per car wash is too much. Others have suggested that car washes only use only reclaimed water.

Most of the water used at Sudz's car wash on Peace Street is reclaimed.

"It goes through a strainer. Then it goes up through the reclaim pump, and it goes into the car wash,” Gardner said.

The water-treatment system was particularly useful during the most stringent water restrictions, Gardner said. To stay open during Stage 2 water restrictions, car washes had to be certified as using 55 gallons or less per wash.

"Possibly under certain drought restrictions, make facilities that do not reclaim reduce their water use by a certain percentage,” said Ed Buchan, water conservation specialist with Raleigh’s Public Utilities Department.

The city may also let customers know with signs which car washes reuse water.

"This is sort of (a) Monday-morning quarterback kind of thing,” Buchan said.

The Public Utilities Committee also voted Wednesday afternoon to move forward with a water reuse project.

The city has already invested $5 million dollars in the project, which is intended to use treated wastewater for irrigation.

The project calls for a 17-mile pipeline to serve some of the largest water users, like NC State University and golf courses.

The Triangle has faced three droughts – the most recent being the worst – in the last 10 years.