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Water is a precious resource, the incoming of which we simply cannot control, at least not yet, and the only thing that can be controlled is how the current supply is used and reused. As droughts (and impending droughts) subvert areas throughout the Northern Hemisphere (namely the entire state of California and Northern Texas), it's safe to say that using, saving and reusing water is an important factor of your business. Even if your area is in a drought-free zone, it doesn't hurt to still work on your water-saving initiatives, which can not only save you money, but also attract customers who are mindful of the environment and its delicate resources.
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The following Q&A features answers from Gary Hirsh, president of New Wave Industries, Ltd., PurClean™ & PurWater™, who lets us in on the current water climate and what initiatives to consider taking to concurrently stay afloat, save water and protect your incoming supply.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What message do you have for carwashes which have no water reclaim equipment installed?
Gary Hirsh: Water and sewer costs are rising at exponential rates and will continue to increase due to diminishing supplies of water and an aging municipal water treatment infrastructure to properly support the growing commercial and residential demand — water consumption in the United States has tripled in the last 50 years. Additionally, changing weather patterns and widespread drought conditions have further compounded our nationwide water supply shortage. As a result, municipalities have increased TAP fee’s to access municipal water/sewer and have introduced policies regulating water usage including limitations on usage during drought conditions for businesses including carwash operators who have not incorporated recovery/reclaim systems. The governor of the state of California signed Bill AB 2230 on September 2012 requiring in-bay and conveyor carwash projects permitted and constructed after January 1, 2014, to either install, use, and maintain a water recycling system, as defined, that recycles and reuses at least 60 percent of the wash and rinse water, or to use recycled water provided by a water supplier for at least 60 percent of its wash and rinse water.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What is the current water situation across the U.S?
Gary Hirsh: Did you know if there is a looming water crisis for the upcoming hotter months? The current water situation is quite bleak: 47 percent of the lower 48 states are still in the middle of a long-term drought. As an example; The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifer systems in the world stretching across all or portions of eight states including South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas and underlies about 174,000 square miles. The Ogallala Aquifer supplies drinking water to 82 percent of the near 3 million people living within the boundaries of the High Plains and is currently being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute. The U.S. Geological Survey states that a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940. The Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of approximately 240 feet, today the average depth is just 80 feet.
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In some areas of Texas, the water is gone completely and the average annual depletion rate between 2000 and 2007 was more than twice that during the previous 50 years. As we head into the hotter summer months, the overall U.S. drought outlook remains nearly steady across the country.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: When it comes to water reclaim equipment, what is the biggest misnomer you have heard?
Gary Hirsh: The two biggest misconceptions are that water reclaim systems are difficult to operate and maintain and the water has offensive odor.
When planning to incorporate a reclaim into your wash model, it’s important to select a manufacturer who has earned a reputation of providing quality equipment, engineering support and offers local service through a reputable factory trained distributor. A quality reclaim manufacturer will evaluate your wash model and site conditions to determine the most appropriate reclaim system for the targeted wash application as well as review your existing underground tanking/plumbing infrastructure to determine if any site modifications are required to provide optimum settling of solids resulting in an efficient water recovery system. If the site currently does not have an underground tanking/plumbing system, the manufacturer along with the local distributor should be able to provide the necessary engineering for the operator to properly incorporate one.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: In what ways are today's systems easier to operate?
Gary Hirsh: There has been significant advancements in reclaim technology including Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) to assure energy efficiency, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) that have automated the process and Human Machine Interface (HMI) to provide the operator with a graphics-based visualization of the control and monitoring system making the system efficient and user friendly.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What about the offensive odor misnomer?
Gary Hirsh: Many manufacturers have incorporated technology to effectively address odor issues including ozone injection to preclude the growth of odor causing anaerobic bacteria that is typically associated with water recovery. Today’s more advanced recovery/reclaim systems incorporate advanced engineered technology resulting in a very user friendly, cost-effective system providing the operator with high quality, odor-free processed water while not negatively impacting wash quality.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: What advice do you have for an operator looking to install a system?
Gary Hirsh: My advice to operators (that currently do not have a reclaim system) is to seriously consider incorporating a recovery system into their wash business to minimize their fresh water usage, be compliant with current and future municipal requirements. Incorporating a water reclamation system can save an operator anywhere from $8,000 to over $20,000 per year in water and sewer costs. I always recommend operators be proactive and contact their local municipality to learn about the various water saving programs offered; many municipalities now offer rebate programs to financially assist businesses to incorporate water saving devices such as reclaim systems into their businesses. I advise operators to incorporate a water reclaim system into their wash business as a win-win proposition; they will significantly reduce their water/sewer costs which will positively impact their bottom-line, provide a platform to exhibit/promote their environmental stewardship within their community which will drive new business to their wash location and saving water is the environmentally right thing to do.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How should an operator go about choosing a system?
Gary Hirsh: My best advice is to first and foremost, do your due diligence; speak with several reclaim manufacturers to educate yourself on the technology, contact your local distributor to learn about their experience with reclaim and the manufacturers in the industry as well as operators currently using reclaim prior to selecting a system. Contact your local municipality to learn about any water saving programs/rebates they offer and how incorporating a reclaim system would benefit your business during drought conditions. When selecting a reclaim system provider, be sure the manufacturer offers a local factory trained and authorized distributor that is knowledgeable on the product, can install and provide after the sale service. Additionally, operators should be aware of the importance of a well thought-out underground settling tanking/plumbing system, underground tanking and plumbing is critically important to operating a efficient reclaim system while minimizing cost of ownership. I would also recommend speaking with your chemical provider, utilizing reclaim compatible chemistry will assist your reclaim system to operate optimally and reduce maintenance costs.