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Water Use in the Professional Car Wash Industry

Our latest study consists of a comprehensive version as well as individual versions dedicated to both In-Bay and Conveyor operations.

This study was performed for the purpose of providing a current look at water use, evaporation and carryout, and the use of reclaim water in professional vehicle washes. Since the first ICA field study in 2002, car wash technology has changed, with several improvements to improve water efficiency.

These improvements help provide financial benefits to the car wash owner/operator, assist in meeting regulatory requirements and allow the industry to improve its environmental profile. Specific requirements to meet limits in water consumption have also helped drive the use of reclaim systems in car washes, as well as a state law in California requiring the use of reclaim in car washes constructed after 2013.

The data was collected at a dozen commercial car wash facilities in located in Northern California during the period of May 1 to November 1, 2017. Water use was monitored for a minimum of one week at each of six conveyor and six in-bay facilities. The results of the research at conveyor sites showed freshwater use at 30 gallons per vehicle, which could be used by operators as a benchmark for evaluating their overall efficiency. The In-Bay automatics were more variable due largely to onsite differences in operations, but there was a clear trend towards lower water use per vehicle for those which used reclaim water in more cycles within the wash.

The report is organized into an Executive Summary, a chapter each on Conveyor Car Washes and In-Bay Automatic Car Washes, recommendations, and appendices for the benefit of the ICA and its constituents.

The facility management at each location was provided a report on their individual site results.