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A fluidounce of prevention

October 11, 2010
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In a recent conversation, Bill Sartor, general partner of four Washem Car Wash self-serve locations in San Antonio and former president of the International Carwash Association, explained the importance of preparing for a drought the best I have heard it put:

“If you’re so sure your city will never be affected by a drought, then explain to me why your municipality has a drought contingency plan.”

Ladies and gentleman, drought can happen and is happening all across the United States. Across the world, carwash operators are shaking their heads, eyes wide in disbelief of our arrogance and/or naivety. They have had to learn the hard way: water is a precious commodity, at times a luxury. They don’t take clean drinking water for granted, and they are already accustomed to paying premium prices to access and use water and sewer systems.

Sartor, perhaps best known as the crusader for carwash rights during drought in San Antonio in 1996 and since then in several other American cities, speaks from experience. “Unfortunately, I’ve never been asked to work in a proactive case. It’s always reactive, and then it’s always harder,” Sartor says. “I’d love the chance to be able to work with a group of carwashers, proactively, before drought has hit.”

If Sartor ever gets that chance depends on your response to this editorial. It depends on your willingness to act before disaster happens, before your choice to act is taken away. It also depends on your ability to work with your carwash neighbors (sometimes called the competition) and existing regional associations; to stand up as a group to lobby for your rights and interests.

Water is the unifying and central element of our industry. The automation may change from wash to wash, the chemical equations may differ, heck, there are even supposedly waterless solutions — but no matter the type of carwash business, it always comes back to water. You’re reminded of this every time you pay a sewer impact fee or your water bill; but do you spend much time calculating and assessing the ways in which you use water and how you can adjust these practices?

Starting today, chart your water usage and run-through the various processes of your carwash that use water. Contact the officials associated with water usage in your district, then call up your fellow operators and plan a meeting. Shoot Bill Sartor an e-mail. Put together an educational pamphlet that can be used with consumers and with local government.

Whatever you do, don’t sit still. Because failing to plan is planning to fail, and you’re a better operator than that.

Kate Carr is the editor in chief of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® Magazine and drinks more than 64 ounces of water
a day. You can send your grumblings, compliments and suggestions to

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