Happy spring, everyone. It was great seeing some of you at The Car Wash Show™ in Las Vegas last month. I hope all of you have been able to put to good use my recent article on marketing and marketing techniques specific to carwashing. And, as always, if you have any questions on this or any of my other articles, feel free to contact me directly, and I’ll do my best to help you.

My article for this issue covers water conservation. As many of you might know, I own and operate carwashes in Los Angeles, California, where (up until this year) we have been in a severe drought situation and have put into place several water-saving and conservation-minded techniques that greatly reduce water (specifically fresh water) usage.

I want to explain a little bit about what I do out here, the equipment I use as well as how you can take advantage of and best market your carwash’s water conservation techniques. These as well as other topics were also part of a lecture I recently presented to the City of Los Angeles at its conference on water-saving, conservation and environmental stewardship.

Wash, rinse, reuse

First of all, I use a full reclaim system with a 1,500-gallon reclaim tank at both my LA South Bay locations. These systems are state-of-the-art and are able to recycle 80 percent of all water used and produce a net recycle of over 40 percent. I also have all my reverse osmosis (RO) reject water being funneled back into my reclaim system, thus reusing that water, which also contributes to the net recycle.

Furthermore, my entire catch pit (conveyor trench) is designed to be a recycling mechanism with sump-pumps at the bottom of the slope that allow me to reuse all the fresh water throw-off from all my wax arches, rinse arches and the RO arch. Nothing is wasted. Considering I have a 110-foot tunnel with lots of arches and profit centers, I still manage to use only about 45 to 50 gallons per car (gpc), which is fairly decent. Unfortunately, that RO really chews it up. But, I have no choice as my carwash is in a high-end demographic where my customers expect nothing less, and I actually use 100 percent RO water at my “offline” hand wash area too. This is where the Lamborghini and Ferrari cars are washed and cared for as well as custom trucks and other “sensitive” vehicles.

Word to the water-wise

When doing all this water-saving and recycling for the sake of the environment and taking the time to painstakingly make customers aware of all this trouble we go through, it is a waste to not advertise these efforts and use them to our advantage.

For instance, we displayed a phrase on our main billboard last year that read, “DROUGHT BUSTERS — WE RECYCLE OUR WATER HERE.” This was huge at the time; many customers actually came in during this time not only to see how the water recycling system worked but also simply because of the fact that they felt they were doing their part to help the environment.

Also, many municipalities have now banned “driveway” carwashing, and rather than just let their cars become dirty, these people actually came to us. Many people were unaware that we recycled our water. Now, with proper advertising and the fact that we have marketing signage in and all over the carwash as well as on our website, we are often pegged as a “green carwash.”

Fundraising and “ocean awareness,” particularly at our Redondo Car Wash location, where we have a very popular surf-themed carwash combined with a very popular surf company, brings about huge attention and makes us a destination carwash.

I do as much fundraising as possible, and when passing out the flyers and promos, I put the circular, three-arrow recycled water insignia on all our marketing and advertising. Another aspect on fundraising that works well for us is demonstrating that we are water-conscious when cleaning the cars.

Through our promotional programs and flyers that go out before any of our fundraiser programs and events happen, we put our recycle and “heal the bay/save the bay” mottos on the flyer. This not only creates the water-saving impression and gets the word out about it, but it also helps sell the fundraiser itself, thus improving our image and making us a choice destination wash that will live long in the minds of our customers even well after the fundraiser(s) is over.

Riding the wave of success

Whether you are a full-serve hand wash, a full-serve cloth, express or any of the self-serve and rollover types, you can do your part to stress water conservation. By making these simple choices and taking a few easy steps with marketing and awareness design, you too can promote water conservation, drive traffic and increase sales.

Many of the insignias are available online, and I recommend talking to your regional association for other marketing tools, tips and ideas. There are also rebates available as well as regional promotions. The International Carwash Association (ICA) has a WaterSavers® program too.

Related: ICA launches water conservation education campaign

Stay tuned for my two-part series on employee training, retention and how to incentivize new and long-standing employees.