The car wash industry is currently experiencing a 10 – 15 per cent increase in usage by consumers per year, amounting to a considerable increase in drinking-quality water consumption.
With an encouraging trend of car wash operators now starting to use water recycle systems, further research and improvement of water recycling equipment could lead to an even higher percentage of car wash operators adopting the systems, and ultimately reduce drinking-quality water consumption.
WIM Industries (trading as H2O Cleanawater), a small Blackburn based business that produces Cleanawater oil solids separators and wash water recycle systems, are currently leading the way for technology in this field.
Cleanawater business owner, Mike Watt, applied for a Smart Water Fund grant to research and develop water recycling equipment to efficiently and cost effectively remove solids and trace organics, such as oil, from carwash operators’ wash water to enable its reuse.
The grant allowed Cleanawater to employ a graduate engineer to research and test a variety of solids removal systems at their works. Final tests were then undertaken for a period of nine months at a high volume commercial car wash complex in Blackburn.
The first step was to analyse responses from a vehicle wash survey, and use the survey responses to propose target standards for recycle water quality. This target standard was used in the design and development of wash water recycle equipment to be implemented for general use at car washes.
Equipment types to satisfy the proposed target standards were investigated and included hydrocyclones, mixed media filters and bag/cartridge filters.
The range and scope of tests completed during the Vehicle Wash Water Recycle project demonstrated that, depending on the size of the car wash plant, the benchmark standard for key water quality requirements for recycled water can be met or exceeded.
“It’s a continual learning process,” Mr Watt said, “but, we have gained a tremendous amount of technical knowledge that will characterise the implementation of wash water recycling systems in the future.” Statistics from the project show that car wash operators can save in excess of one million litres of drinking water per annum by recycling and treating water on site. In addition, by recycling wash water on site, operators can save as much as $120,000 per annum if there is no sewerage connection available.
The development of this knowledge on wash water recycle systems will lead to further improvements in recycle water technology and ultimately increase the cost effectiveness of reclaimed water use, encouraging more car wash operators to install equipment.
In addition, operators who adopt water recycling systems will gain a competitive edge in the marketplace by targeting consumers who are dedicated to preserving our waterways. By treating the water on site, not only will less demand be placed on the sewer system and the environment, but the capital cost of the plant is relatively low and annual operating cost for an automated, unmanned plant will be under $3,000.
“The mindset is beginning to change, people are realising how scarce water is getting and how wasteful we have been of this precious resource,” Mr Watt said, “with a wash water recycle system, both the operator and the environment win.”