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Don't waste the wash water

October 11, 2010
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As the vehicle washing industry continues its rapid growth, new methods and technology are being developed to supply the water that allows this industry to flourish.

The increasing cost to use this lifeblood is skyrocketing: the expense to acquire this necessity, the monthly cost to continue to use it, and of course the expensive charges to send it to the sewer.

Water, water everywhere
The major concern of many municipal water providers is how to equally divide resources to benefit everyone in a certain jurisdiction.

In many areas rapid growth is forcing regulators to impose expensive upfront fees, meter charges and high monthly usage bills to discourage potential high-volume operations.

To offset the rising cost of water and sewer fees, many operators have adapted methods to recover the spent water and use it again in preliminary pre-rinse applications.

New technology in treating and filtering the spent water has made it more desirable and cost effective to implement. In most cases, it also yields a substantial savings in proportion to the cost of the equipment.

Some of the more obvious benefits are:

  • Helping to insure against the drought interruption possibility;
  • Having a second source of free water for use on high-volume applications; and
  • Being able to add more equipment to your location without encumbering your existing source of fresh water.

One of the less obvious, but in most cases more gratifying benefits is the contribution a wash owner makes toward being a good steward to the environment.

Rejects wanted
If an owner has incorporated spot-free for final rinse in his or her operation, no doubt they’ve figured out exactly how much fresh water it takes to generate just one gallon of spot-free water.

Depending on the quality and temperature, the owner can expect to reject from two-to-seven gallons for every gallon of spot-free manufactured.

Many operators unknowingly dump this rejected water down the drain without knowing how much good, clean, clear, usable water they are wasting.

More operators are discovering the fact that their reject water can be used for other applications in the wash, including:

  • Prep guns;
  • Preliminary rinse; and
  • Drying agent.

Collecting the reject water and blending with fresh water in a common tank will offer an excellent reservoir for re-pressurization pumps to deliver large volumes of consistent pressure flow without the ups and downs of the typical municipal water supply.

Reject, reclaim, reuse
There is still yet another source for additional water for the blend tank. This source is clean, water created from the flow of a reclaim re-circulation system. This technology can produce clean water that can be mixed with the reject water from the reverse osmosis (RO) spot-free system.

The water source is clean enough to make spot-free permeate when supplied to standard reverse osmosis membranes.

The source water would work best when used as a supplement in a blend with reject water and used in functions that are followed by a final pass of RO spot-free.

The best method for applying this source water would be to use reclaim for:

  • The wash portion and undercarriage;
  • Blend of RO reject;
  • New source water and small amounts of fresh for preliminary rinse; and
  • A spot-free rinse for the finish product.

The good news about this concept is the more water the owner can save — from capturing the RO reject, supplying the new source water, and blending the mix with lower amounts of fresh — the fewer gallons he or she will need to purchase from municipal suppliers, and the lower the wash’s fresh water demand and sewer charges will be.

Breaking ties
The best news concerning all this water recycling technology is if a wash can now manufacture enough fresh water. In many cases, it can become independent of the municipal sewer authority.

In addition, potential sites that are presently not serviced by sewer and water can be excellent carwash sites with much lower land cost than sites with improvements.

The idea of creating clean clear water from gray water reclaim is now a reality with the water recycling systems available.

More good news is that the cost of these recycling systems is affordable and in most cases will be less than most sewer tap fees. The concept is simple, reliable and for the most part maintenance free.

Jim Keller is a 40-year veteran of the carwash industry and the president of Con-Serv Water Recovery Systems & Con-Serv Manufacturing, a Lakeland, Fl-based company specializing in wastewater recovery and spot-free rinse systems. Jim can be reached at

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