How the Drought Is Affecting L.A. Car Washes

According to USA Today, “California’s desperate water situation has existed since 2007.” The state isnow putting into place restrictions aimed at meeting a cutback statewide by 25%. Californians have been affected in a myriad of ways and those washing cars have certainly had to make some adjustments. Residents wishing to wash their vehicles at home face restrictions and risk being turned in by their neighbors, and fined, if not in compliance. One would think that car washing businesses, detail shops, and dealerships would be adversely affected, too. They are, but if they have spent the time and money to make their systems much more water efficient, they are probably faring even better than one would expect.

Restrictions Statewide for Residents Using Water

As of July of this year, State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento approved rules allowing a fine of $500 for those residents hosing down sidewalks or driveways, wasting water on lawns, or using a hose without a shutoff.Considering that the average car washer at home uses from one hundred to one hundred twenty gallons each time, it is clear that, with a water shortage, this consumption is wasteful. As well, residents may not wish to bring attention upon themselves even if they are being careful. Would they be better off, then, going to a car wash or a dealership?

What Changes Have Been Made by Car Washes to Conserve Water?

Businesses washing cars with outdated equipment are the ones suffering from restrictions on their consumption right now. Even before the drought, their older systems would have been costly regarding the expense of the metered water used. Investment in a recycling systems with pumps and holding tanks would have paid for themselves, by savings on utilities, in a matter of months.

Many car washes and detail shops are actually exempt from the state’s restrictions due to their use of recycled water. They have become quite efficient in their water usage by:

  1. High-flow/ High-pressure systems
  2. Using recycled water for the main wash cycle. Recapturing used water and collecting it into large tanks for re-use enables each gallon to be re-used four to five times. One car wash may then involve no more than 30-40 gallons of water, and, in the case of the most efficient systems with multiple pumps, as few as 2-2.5 gallons are used.

How is Dealership Car Washing Affected?

Many auto dealerships offer free car washes to their new car customers. Some have had to give alternative incentives to those same customers, give them coupons for a nearby car wash, or let them use their free car wash coupons as credit towards service on their cars, instead. These would be the ones who have not retrofitted in order to become more efficient. A car dealership, having gotten their car washing equipment up to date would benefit not only by being able to honor their free car wash incentive promises, but also having the ability to, onsite, keep their inventory spotless.

How is the drought affecting L.A. car washes? It has been a boon to those with the latest efficient technology, since folks are much less likely now to wash their cars at home. For the businesses with outdated systems, though, these are not easy times.