Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A new approach to water recovery

October 11, 2010

As the carwashing industry continues its rapid growth, new methods and technology are being developed to supply the lifeblood that allows this industry to flourish — water. The increasing cost to acquire water is skyrocketing. The expense to use this necessity and the monthly cost to continue to use it are also increasing. And of course, the most expensive charge is to send it to the sewer.

The concerns of many municipal providers are how to equally divide the resources to benefit everyone in their 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 waste water and use it again in preliminary pre-rinse applications.

Making wastewater usable
New technology in treating and filtering the wastewater has made it more desirable and cost effective to implement. In most cases, yielding a substantial savings in proportion to the cost of the equipment is realized.

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.

Some of the less obvious, but in most cases more gratifying than the other benefits, is the contribution you are making to be a good steward to the environment.

If you incorporate spot-free for final rinse in your operation, no doubt you have figured out exactly how much fresh water it takes to generate just one gallon of spot-free.

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

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 that reject water can be used for other applications in the wash, including preliminary rinse, drying agent and prep guns.

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.

In 2007, operators can expect to see even better technology that will add another source for additional water for the blend tank.

This new source is clean, clear water created from the flow of the reclaim re-circulation system. This new technology can produce clean water that can be mixed with the reject water from the spot-free system. The new source water is clean enough to make spot-free permeate when supplied to standard reverse osmosis (RO) membranes.

What to do now?
At the present time, 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 the new source water will be to use reclaim for the wash portion and undercarriage, a 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 is the more water we can save capturing the RO reject, less new source and fresh water will be needed. The fewer gallons we will need to purchase from our municipal suppliers, the lower our fresh water demand, the lower the sewer charges.

The best news is if carwashes can manufacture enough fresh water, we can be independent of connecting to a municipal sewer authority.

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

The new source technology reality of creating clean, clear water from gray water reclaim is here.

The cost 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. The system uses plastic tube clusters; each tube is coated with an inner liner approximately 2.5 sq foot of surface area.

The reclaim water flows through the tube cluster at low pressure, 20 to 25 PSI. The flow will allow small amounts to permeate thru the wall liner and be discharged clean and clear.

Life on a typical liner is approximately four to five years. This technology can be used or adapted to most any water recovery systems that incorporate the use of ozone.

Jim Keller is a 40-year veteran of the carwash industry and a manufacturer of water recovery systems for the carwash industry for over 30 years. He is president of Con-Serv Manufacturing, a Lakeland, FL-based company specializing in wastewater recovery and spot-free rinse systems for the carwash industry.