How Car Wash Operators Deal with Droughts

Learn more about how droughts affect car washes.

Hello Professional Car Washers,

We hope you're having a great summer. It's hot, and in many places, it's dry. The word "drought" is beginning to show up in municipal bulletins and the local news shows. This might be a good time for your car wash to dust off its water management policy. Be ready...when the water authority and/or media show up. Have a plan so that your car wash can demonstrate that it has taken action to deal with the drought situation.

What if the car wash does not have a water management policy? There are sources to help develop one. Start with the International Carwash Association's WaterSavers program; details can be found at

Joining the program gives operators the benefit of industry best practices. Along with the International Car Wash Association (ICA), there are many good state and regional associations with additional information. Along with water conservation information, these trade groups include opportunities to network with other operators in the area.

North Carolina and Georgia actually have statutes on the books to protect certified car washes during times of drought. In Georgia, the car wash certification procedure and application can be found on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website ( In North Carolina, operators must follow the certification process by the North Carolina Professional Carwash Association (

From a benchmarking standpoint, one of our larger customers, Autobell has indicated that all of its car washes in North Carolina and Georgia are certified. Further, all Autobell locations along the east coast participate in the ICA's WaterSavers program.

While you prepare your plans for water conservation, remember the media! Always hungry for a story, the media could appear at your car wash location. Be ready...they may select a busy day to visit your existing car wash or even the construction site of your new car wash to discuss the potential of a drought. To help field those questions, Hensley Fontana Public Relations has a few suggestions for facts to know and talking points to get across:

  • Authorize specific employees and coach them before they speak to the media.
  • Review the specifics of your company's water management policy.
  • Remember, as a professional car wash, you are in the water management business every day.
  • Know the percentage of wash water that the wash reclaims and recycles (80%, 100%, etc.).
  • Provide interesting facts on the wash's recycling system equipment and/or technology.
  • Make it clear that home or parking lot car washes use up to 150 gallons of water, with none recycled.
  • Be clear that washes performed on impervious surfaces such as driveways and parking lots send dirty, chemical-laden wash water directly into storm drains and local water systems.
  • Specify if the wash has a water management policy in place to control water usage both on a daily basis and during drought situations.
  • Year-round water management practices could include:
    • Utilizing devices designed or improved for maximum water conservation.
    • Maintaining spray nozzles at maximum efficiency.
    • Repairing any water leaks as soon as they occur.
    • Installing low-flow toilets.
    • Using high-efficiency towel washing machines.
    • Recycling towel rinse water.
  • Voluntary drought reductions could include:
    • Discontinuing irrigation.
    • Sweeping instead of washing down driveways and impervious areas.
    • When necessary for health and safety purposes, washing driveways with a high-pressure, low-volume water system.
  • Mention if your wash has a fleet program, so other businesses can abide by any voluntary or mandatory car washing restrictions.
  • Be sure to mention if the wash offers a charity car wash program to replace parking lot car wash fundraisers. Share the specifics on how the program works.

Be ready for dry days and good business ahead.

Team Howco

Company Information

HOWCO Commercial Car Wash Distributor

1521 E. Third St.
Charlotte, NC 28204

facebook twitter