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An insider's look at water reclamation

June 01, 2011
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The myths, the mysteries and the truths to the world of water reclamation can be a bit confusing. Therefore, PC&D decided to turn to an expert in the field, Charles Borchard VP of Operations for the PurClean and PurWater Divisions of New Wave Industries. Borchard let us in on the biggest misconceptions regarding water reclaim systems and whether or not they are the wave of the future.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about water reclamation systems?

Charles Borchard: That they are all really expensive, with reclaim systems like everything else you get what you pay for. Back in the day when municipalities and water and sewer districts were starting to get concerned about their ability to deliver water to their customers they developed a means to collect revenue to help offset needed improvements, these were called impact fees. These fees were calculated to charge the user that would have the most need for water and sewer services the most money. Often carwashes were targeted. Water reclamation systems were developed to counter these fees. Water and sewer districts would often set aside most or sometimes all the impact fees based on the carwash customer having a water reclamation system, these system were often never used. If you your only reason for getting a reclaim system is to slip by your inspector and you have no intention of ever having to run it, then you can get by really cheap. Try not to get caught, nowadays while there are still impact fees, the water and sewer authorities are also charging by the volume of water you take in and calculating from that your sewer discharge, these rates are sky-rocketing. So while any “reclaim system” may get you by the impact fees, you are going to want one that works consistently and provides a high quality wash to keep your operating costs down.

PC&D: Is the carwashing industry embracing the idea of reclaiming water, or is there still a long way to go?

Borchard: Currently there is likely less than 20 percent of carwashes reclaiming water, and probably half of them are not doing it as well as they could. It takes a long time to change a deeply held belief. Those deeply held beliefs being reclaim systems are expensive and problematic.

PC&D: In terms of a marketing strategy, do you think customers will be more inclined to visit a carwash that reclaims its water?

Borchard: As a country, we are considerably more aware of our environment than ever before and rightfully so. Being “environmentally friendly” today is more than just a catchy phrase, or the basis of a PSA advertisement, for more and more people it's become a way of life. This is evident by the recent success of the WaterSavers program introduced by the International Carwash Association.

The average age of the motoring public is younger than ever before and environment stewardship is a priority to generation “X” and “Y.” For those Operators’ that have incorporated water reclamation systems to reduce their need of fresh water and minimize sewer discharge, utilize environmentally-friendly chemistry and take advantage of VFD pumps and electrical panels to assure optimum energy efficiency will effectively reduce their operating costs. By promoting their wash as environmentally-friendly, the operator will attract this targeted market.

PC&D: Do you think every carwash will one day reclaim water? If yes, when? If no, why not?

Borchard: I am sure there will always be some who don’t reclaim, if the resource or service of water and sewer stays cheap enough that in certain areas it doesn’t make sense then you shouldn’t, being “socially responsible” or green for the sake of saying so, and it takes ten years to recoup then I would say don’t do it. There will be those that even if the financial makes sense, for one reason or another, not unlike a crusty old guy who doesn’t see the value in “smart phones,” tweeting and “social networking web sites,” they just won’t do it. I think water and sewer costs will continue to rise, and unless we for some reason or another lose the ability to transport ourselves in private vehicles, and there won’t be a need to wash them, you will see an increase in wash sites reclaiming water.