Michigan Car Wash Saves Estimated 28 Million Gallons of Water vs. Driveway Washing

Tommy Car Wash Systems' Tunnel

As many regions of the nation, particularly California and the American Southwest, face unprecedented water shortages, car wash manufactures and operators across the industry continue to innovate and invest in water efficient technology.

Today Tommy Car Wash Systems, a Michigan-based car wash equipment manufacturer and site developer, announced that Quality Car Wash’s Waverly Ave location, a single high-tech, high-volume car wash tunnel in Holland, MI saved just under an estimated 28 million gallons of water than would have been used if customers had instead washed the vehicles at home.

The car wash, located on the corner of Waverly Avenue and Chicago Drive in the Holland business district, used 34.20 gallons of water per vehicle during 2015, based on water usage records and vehicle count figures. This is comparable to the water consumption resulting from an average-length shower, which uses around 40 gallons of water, or a standard top load washer which uses around 35 gallons of water per load. Included in the figure is the water mixed into body soaps and detergents throughout the wash, sealer and wax applications, high pressure rinse, drying aid application, and all bay wash down water at the facility. This low water usage was also accomplished without use of a reclaim or re-circulation system.

The company credits this efficient performance to their equipment and wash process methodology, which include:

  • Targeted high pressure nozzles to provide greater cleaning power with less water
  • Service optimization via Custom Controls’ Guardian Wash Control System
  • Next generation car wash management and monitoring software
  • Repeated small-dose applications with minimal waste

In comparison, driveway washing with a hose has long been known to be a highly inefficient use of local water resources. The EPA and Mid-America Regional Council estimate that the average driveway wash uses 116 gallons of clean water, a reasonable figure given that an average household garden hose dispenses 12 gallons of water per minute. At that rate even a quick ten-minute driveway wash with an open hose can use 120 gallons or more of water, an amount that multiplies for parking lot car wash fundraisers.  Additionally, public agencies caution that detergent runoff from driveway washes often carries motor oils and detergent phosphates into streetside storm drains. These drains then route this pollution into local water supplies with no management or treatment, poisoning local wildlife and triggering ecologically devastating algae blooms in large bodies of water.

As a result many local governments (including those in areas with and without water shortages) have already moved to ban driveway washing or are actively encouraging residents to patronize their local car washes instead. In turn these local washes operate under strict water usage guidelines, recycle and recirculate much of the water used, and then route the remaining water back through a sanitary sewer to the local water treatment plant where it is cleaned and recirculated without environmental harm.

Locations where driveway washing is already banned or limited include:

  • Germany, which bans all washing on public roads. Washes on private property are banned as well, unless the resident is able to collect and properly dispose of all used water. These limits exist to conserve water and limit pollutant runoff..
  • Australia, where different regions operate under escalating water usage restrictions. These restrictions regulate the frequency of driveway washing or ban it outright during certain periods in an effort to combat ongoing drought conditions..
  • California, where residents are now barred from washing cars with a hose unless it has a shut-off nozzle. Organizations such as the Bay Area Council have released PSAs encouraging commercial car wash visits over do-it-yourself washing..

Estimates of water consumption as a result of driveway washing vary considerably. Assuming 100 gallons of water per wash (less than the 116 gallon figure used by the Mid-America Regional Council) Tommy Car Wash Systems estimates that the Waverly Avenue Quality Car Wash site saved 27,986,030 total gallons of water, calculated with the average water use of 34.20 gallons per car and the total number of cars washed at the site during 2015.

With residential water use taking up an average of 60-70% of municipal water supplies, aging pipes and infrastructures straining to deliver potable water to expanding populations, and water shortages expected to worsen throughout the century, new solutions for modern water conservation are needed. These figures above represent the impact of a single car wash in a small Michigan community. How many more gallons could be saved nationally if a majority of  driveway car washing was replaced with automatic car wash patronage? The water-saving technology incorporated into the Tommy Car Wash Systems’ equipment package and these long-term results give evidence that ending driveway hose washing and encouraging car wash patronage in its place stands as an actionable solution for modern water conservation on both the local and national levels.

Tommy Car Wash Systems

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