Beyond the Curb – Water Conservation
In The Garden
“Healthy Gardening” from Salinas Valley Recycles
Includes: Information on backyard composting, composting with worms, grass cycling, and less toxic gardening.
Ask any gardener today why he or she gardens and you’ll get a variety of reasons why it’s important.
Garden to learn, garden to be creative, garden for exercise, etc. For many people, their home garden is an escape. It is a hobby that they enjoy and helps them get back to nature in the middle of their bustling lives. There are many things that can be done in your home garden that you can change from being detrimental to our environment to beneficial! Whether it is growing an organic garden, starting a backyard composting system, worm composting, collecting rain water, or even just planting drought tolerant plants, you can individually make a difference in the local environment, and your family's health.
Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally unfriendly chores we can do around the house. Washing your car is only a problem if you don’t know where or how to do it correctly. Not only does a commercial car wash use up to 60% less water than the average homeowner, but it recycles the water and eliminates the possibility of allowing what runs off from your car to go right into storm drains -- and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes -- as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.
Often, citizens don’t know that by washing all that winter grime off their vehicles they might actually be causing harm to our local waterways. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into the storm drains. Pollution associated with car washing degrades water quality while also finding its way into sediments, impacting aquatic habitats.
What you can do?
Go To The Car Wash:
The best way to minimize the effect washing your car has on the environment is to use a commercial car wash. Most locations reuse wash water several times before sending it to a treatment plant. However, if you choose to wash your car at home or on the street, these are some things that you can do to minimize the water quality impact.
Choose Your Soap Wisely:
Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only. Wash soaps contain what are known as "surfactants". These are used to help break the surface tension of the dirt particles on your car. Many car wash soaps on the market use phosphates or petro-based chemicals as their surfactants. So, when you actually wash down the car, contained in the water are all the pollutants from your vehicle. These include brake dust, oils, exhaust fumes and other nasty contaminants. While your car may look great when you're done washing, one must consider where all that soapy water has gone.
Play On The Lawn:
Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass. This can filter water before it enters groundwater, storm drains, or creeks. Even when using green-friendly cleaners, it is better to avoid the driveway and instead wash your car on your lawn or over dirt. By washing your car on the lawn, you are providing a filter for the soapy water. Grass and other plants absorb the chemicals and other contaminants, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants that ends up in the storm drain. The root systems of plants can tolerate much more than can aquatic insects and fish.
Raise Funds a Better Way:
One last caution: Kids and parents planning a fundraising car wash event should know that they might be violating clean water laws if run-off is not contained and disposed of properly. When planning a car wash fundraiser, try developing a partnership with a commercial car wash facility, or use a safe location. Consider fund-raisers to sell tickets redeemable at local car washes, enabling the organizations to still make money while keeping dry and keeping local waterways clean.
Clean It Up:
After washing your car, always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets where it will filter to the sanitary sewer for treatment. Also, try to sop up or disperse those sudsy puddles that remain after you’re done. They contain toxic residues and can tempt thirsty animals. You can keep your car clean and attractive-looking, while taking care of the environment at the same time! It is so easy!
Car Washes Conserve Water:
– Professional, commercial car washes use water management technology developed through industry and university research that enables them to wash cars thoroughly with a fraction of the water a home car wash uses.
– High-pressure nozzles and pumps at car washes are designed to get the most use out of water flow.
– Special pressure nozzles mix 50% air with water to create pressure without volume.
– A ten minute home wash can use as much as 140 gallons, based on engineering studies that show a 5/8” hose running at 50 psi uses 14 gallons of water per minute (WCA figures).
– Professional car wash equipment can clean a car in just a few minutes, using between 15 and 60 gallons, depending on the equipment used and whether it is a self-service or conveyor wash.
– Comparison with other water uses:
- Dripping faucet: 25-30 gal./day
- Toilet flush: 5-7 gal.
- 10-minute shower: 25-50 gal.
- Washing machine at top water level: 60 gal.
- Brushing teeth: 2 gal.
– For most people, their car is their second most valuable asset. Keeping it clean extends the life of the car.
– Commercial car washes provide jobs for people in the Salinas Valley and significantly contribute to its tax base.
– Driveway and parking lot car washing discharge consists of oils, grease, elements from brake linings, rust, trace amounts of benzene and possibly chromium. Adding soap to the mix introduces phenols, dyes, acids, and ammonia.
Here Are Some “Best Practices” For Washing Cars At Home:
1. Wash your car on the grassy surface to minimize the runoff. Make sure you are not causing any inconveniences to pedestrians.
2. You can wash your car in the driveway if it drains onto a lawn or garden area but never do this if the water runs into a street or a drain.
3. When you wash your car you must be sure that the area does not drain into the storm water system, including the drains in the street.
4. If you can’t reasonably avoid washing the car over impervious surfaces (for example, in apartment communities), block off the storm drains and divert the runoff water to the sanitary sewer or a safe recharge area.
5. In case of absence of a suitable area to wash your car look for alternative area. Maybe one of your friends or neighbors has a suitable ground.
6. Suitable areas for car washing are always provided by service stations. The best place where you can wash your vehicle is a self serve car wash where the runoff water is treated to remove pollutants before getting into the sewer.
7. When washing your car use a trigger hose, hoses with automatic shut-off nozzles or at least bucket to save water.
8. Don’t use much detergent or soap. If you prefer detergents they should be biodegradable low- and no-phosphate (check the label).
9. The waste water must be disposed onto a lawn or garden.
10. Wash your car once, maximum twice a month and reduce the amount of cleaning products per wash.