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Development of the Car Wash Water Saver Rating Scheme

Project Date: 31 December 2006
Project Status: Complete
Research Organisation: Australian Car Wash Association Inc
Project Number: 1164

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The Challenge

The Australian Car Wash Association (ACWA) plays a major role in promoting the car wash industry by increasing public awareness about the environmental and other benefits of using a commercial carwash.

Statistics show that not only does a self service carwash use less water than washing at home in the driveway, but many automatic carwashes recycle large quantities of water, meaning that customers have the potential to conserve substantial amounts of drinking water simply by using a commercial carwash.

The car wash industry recognises that it can help reduce the amount of water used in washing cars by helping car wash operators promote the concept of commercial carwashes and showing them ways of attracting new customers.

To achieve their goal of increasing car owners use of commercial car washes from 35 per cent to 60 per cent, the Australian Car Wash Association trialled a Car Wash Water Saver Rating Scheme, with the ultimate aim of helping car owners and the car wash industry to reduce the amount of drinking water used to wash cars.

The scheme had to be credible, easily audited and flexible enough to remain valid as car wash technology was updated. "With Australia in various stages of water restrictions, we decided we needed to come together as an industry to encourage sustainable water habits," Adam Stone, ACWA Water Rating Scheme Manager said.

The Project

Funded by a grant from the Smart Water Fund, the Car Wash Water Saver Rating Scheme gives rates car washes from one to five stars to indicate how much drinking water is used for a standard wash. This rating is prominently displayed to help consumers choose a car wash that uses less water. Five star car washes use the least amount of drinking water per standard wash.

Star Rating

Number of litres per wash

Not ratedOver 200
1151-200
2101-150
371-100
441-70
5Up to 40

"With various equipment manufacturers and different types of equipment, such as self serve, automatic and hand washes, each using different amounts of water," Mr Stone says, "this scheme is a perfect medium for educating the public on water usage."

The project was trialled in six Victorian commercial car washes, involving extensive testing of drinking water used in a variety of commercial car washes.

The trial also tested for:

  • The practicality and robustness of the rating scheme.
  • The audit and administration of the scheme.
  • The responses and comments from car wash customers and the general public to the scheme.

The Outcome

Lessons Learnt

By targeting consumers who are dedicated to conserving water, the Car Wash Water Saver Rating Scheme has the potential to save a significant amount of water and protect our waterways, particularly when implemented nationally.

"Australians are becoming more aware of the need to save our precious water resources, and the Car Wash Water Saver Rating Scheme enables people to choose a car wash that uses less of our valuable water supplies," says Geoff Logie-Smith from ACWA.

In addition, all car wash businesses participating in the scheme must comply with EPA regulations for trade waste, meaning wash water does not end up polluting waterways.

"Not only is the car wash using water responsibly, they must also treat their water before discharging it into the sewer, so our rivers and creeks are protected too," Mr Stone added.

The Benefits

The Car Wash Water Saving Rating Scheme allows consumers to actively choose to use less water to wash their cars simply by choosing a water wise car wash.

"If 25 per cent of car owners in Australia washed their cars ten times per year at a participating four or five star car wash, then approximately 15 million litres of water could be saved per week," says Mr Logie-Smith.

Adoption of the scheme will also provide operators with a competitive edge in the marketplace as well as enabling them to reduce operating costs and increase margins through improved water efficiency.

"This scheme will provide a powerful incentive for car wash operators to improve the water efficiency of their operations. The scheme will also support car wash operators who want to learn more about how to reduce their overall water consumption," continued Mr Logie-Smith.

For all Smart Water Fund Project enquiries please contact swfinfo@melbournewater.com.au

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