We occasionally provide excerpts from The Great American Car Wash Story. Former ICA Executive Director Gus Trantham and veteran commercial writer John Beck wrote this book in 1994. It represents the most complete history we have found of the industry in North America. Enjoy.
The Future of Water
Practically ever since the dawn of mankind, we human beings have — as a race — looked upon two natural resources as inexhaustible, free gifts of nature so-to-speak. These resources are air and water. But in the last few brief decades, we’ve become aware that what once might have been true can no longer apply, and these changes are demanding some far-reaching alterations in our ways of life. Particularly in the world of car washing where water is a resource that it cannot do without.
The car wash business may be a minor factor in the overall use of water compared to all other industrial and consumer uses. … [but] because people can see the water being sprayed, can see the dirty water going down the drain, the general public feels that car washes use a disproportionate amount of water and sewage resources.
Around the turn of the century, the average American required only 8 gallons of water per day. By 1950, this had risen to almost 50 gallons a day in urban areas. Today [the early 1990s], in a city such as New York, the average use of water per person is 200 gallons per day. Yet these amounts of water are small compared with the amount required by industry. For example, making a ton of paper pulp can use up to 85,000 gallons of water. Textile manufacturing can consume up to 90,000 gallons or more to make a ton of fiber.
Steam production can require up to 100,000 gallons of water per ton of coal burned. In short, industry requires enormous amounts of water.
Mixing up the industrial with the personal use of water, New Jersey alone used about 4,000 gallons of water per day per person during a recent year.
Some of this water comes from rivers and streams, some from lakes and wells. But it all must be discharged somewhere after use. And therein lies a dual problem: the need to treat the water prior to use, and the need to clean the dirty water after use. An important alternative is the re-use of water after it has been discharged and treated.
A generation ago these problems would not have bothered us. Not because they didn’t actually exist, but because few people were aware of the problems, and because few if any laws existed that related to water conservation.
Today we know better.
The car wash business may be a minor factor in the overall use of water compared to all other industrial and consumer uses.
However, because people can SEE the water being sprayed, can SEE the dirty water going down the drain, the general public feels that car washes use a disproportionate amount of water and sewage resources. Sometimes this has resulted in car washes being ordered to shut down during some dry spells even though they may not have played an important role in the water shortage. Actually, these occurrences have been fairly few, but they have called attention to carwash water use.