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Environmental Issues

Use less, make more

January 25, 2012
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Texas is starting 2012 in the grip of a long-term, extreme drought. A severe lack of rainfall has plagued the state since January of last year, and the impact is visible in the water levels of the state’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

In its latest drought information statement, the National Weather Service clearly communicated the grim news: “Currently 62 percent of the state is experiencing Extreme Drought to Exceptional Drought status, and 25 percent of the state is in Exceptional Drought status.” And this is after above-average rainfall in December 2011.

“Water is our single most precious natural resource,” John Unangst, president of the Texas-based Jett Express Car Washes, said. “As an industry we must be committed to being as green as possible in every aspect of our operations.”

Unangst continued, “Use of water reclaim systems and the latest in water purification technology, along with an overall good stewardship program of [water] conservation … will assist our industry in being able to maintain necessary operation levels while providing the services our customers value.”

Jett Express and drought

Jett Express operates six carwashes in central Texas, and so far the chain has been fortunate. The drought has had no adverse effects on their operations to date. “We have never encountered political pressure to close our operations,” Unangst stated.

This may be due to the company’s eco-friendly footprint, their use of green products and the value of the services they provide. In fact, Unangst feels that the communities Jett Express serves recognize the benefits of having a professional carwash operate in their area. One benefit would be washing cars with a minimal amount of water during these drought conditions.

Jett Express explains the advantages of a water reclaim system to customers on their website. First, they let customers know only 12 to 17 gallons of water are needed for each wash cycle. Further, they explain that the advanced water reclaim system filters and processes 100 percent of the wash water for reuse.

List the advantages

An article in Professional Carwash & Detailing magazine was one of the first sources that provided Jett Express insight into the distinct advantages offered by water reclaim systems, Unangst revealed.

Since adding reclaim systems, Jett Express has seen overall water savings of 30 percent to 60 percent, depending on the carwash location. Unangst noted that these savings allow the chain to maintain its affordable $3 express wash pricing.

“At Jett Express we endeavor to maintain effective oversight of all aspects of our cost structure in an effort to sustain our low entry-level wash price point and deliver profitable return,” Unangst said. “Reclamation and recycling of our water is a considerable contribution to the equation that allows us to be a quality and value price leader.”

Custom reclaim

Jett Express is unique in that they custom designed their own water reclaim system. The chain selected a quality equipment supplier who was willing to design the reclaim system to meet their specifications, according to Unangst.

“We custom designed the Jett Express water reclaim system to be as automated as possible in order to keep our maintenance and upkeep as minimal and cost efficient as possible,” Unangst explained. “However, anytime you have mechanical systems there will be components that wear or require replacement.”

The system initially captures wash water and sends it to settling tanks. Then, as the water travels through the tank chambers, disinfecting agents are injected to kill any bacteria, Unangst said. After the water has travelled through a series of individual chambers, it is filtered once then drawn into the reclamation system where it goes through a series of cyclonic filters. Finally, it is pH balanced and oxygenated for reuse.

In the tunnel, the water can be utilized for a number of applications. “Reclaimed water is used as cloth rinse water, with our wheel blaster system and undercarriage rinse process,” Unangst said.

Arming with information

No matter how much water is saved, it can be difficult for carwashes to clearly communicate the benefits of water reclaim to the public. Still, it is a necessary task to fight the perception that washes are water wasters — especially when an area is experiencing such a severe drought.

Jett Express presents their case thoroughly on their website. In their “Top 10 Green Tips,” they let customers know that, not only does the average driveway carwash use 140 gallons of water, but it also releases harmful chemicals and runoff into storm sewers.

After showing customers the dangers of driveway carwashing, they then provide the solution. “At Jett Express, we use nearly 90 percent less water, and we ensure that it is properly treated and disposed of appropriately.”

In addition, Unangst said Jett Express’ carwashes strive to:

  • Help safeguard the environment by conserving water and other natural resources;
  • Offer an eco-friendly atmosphere;
  • Provide quality vehicle asset protection products and services; and
  • Work in a convenient, value oriented and expedient manner.

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