Few people realize that washing our car in our driveways is one of the most environmentally unfriendly chores we can do around the house. Unlike household waste water that enters the sewer and undergoes treatment before it is discharged in to the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains and eventually into rivers, streams and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a cocktail of oils and other residues – not to mention the detergents being used for washing itself.
Commercial car wash facilities, on the other hand, are legally required to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, so it gets treated before it is discharged back into the environment. And commercial car washes use computer-controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Some also recycle and re-use the rinse water [Water Rhapsody greywater recycling systems have been used successfully].
Automatic car washes have been found to use less than half the water of even the most careful home car washer. According to one study, washing a car at home typically uses between 150 and 550 litres of water, while a commercial car wash averages less than 170 litres per car.
So, if you do wash your car at home, at least be sure to choose a biodegradable soap and do the washing using a bucket and sponge not the lazy wasteful way with a running hosepipe. You can use a cup of your existing green liquid dishwashing detergent with a three quarter cup of powdered laundry detergent in 5 litres of water to make up a perfectly good exterior car wash soap (don’t forget to check the laundry detergent is also a chlorine- and phosphate-free brand). Even when using earth-friendly cleaners, it is better to avoid the driveway and instead wash your car on the lawn or over dirt so that the waste water can be absorbed and neutralised in the soil instead of flowing directly into storm drains or open water bodies.
For small jobs and spot cleaning, look out for waterless formulas that are now available and which are applied with a spray bottle and then wiped off with a cloth.
Source: Simply Green May/June 2010
Also see The eco-friendly way to wash a car.
Wherever possible, the amount of waste water being sent to the storm water drains and to the sewer systems, should be reduced. Many sewer systems in South Africa are over-capacity- too much wastewater results in overflows of untreated sewage which then enters our waterways. This is another good reason why we should recycle and reuse greywater for toilet flushing and irrigation. Another exceptionally bad-for-the-environment activity is when we backwash our swimming pools and allow the backwash water to enter the environment and stormwater drains (read Don’t let your swimming pool backwash water damage the environment).
Water Rhapsody Water Conservation Systems Mpumalanga offers water tank and rainwater tank installation, rainwater harvesting systems (see rainwater FAQ), grey water recycling (see greywater FAQ) and water-saving devices for swimming pools and toilet flush systems (see product demo ). Our WWF Award-winning water systems can be retrofitted or built into new buildings and can be adapted to small households or large business blocks, hospitals, schools, lodges & hotels.
Water Rhapsody has incorporated Yes Solar– official distributor of German-made Solsquare solar water heating systems that are installed by Eskom-accredited solar installers (our solar geysers are eligible for Eskom solar energy rebates). We are authorized JoJo Water Tank dealers and Atlas Plastics water tank suppliers in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province (best water tank prices in the Lowveld!). We are also able to supply sanitary hardware such as waterless toilets through our JoJo Tanks and Atlas Plastics dealerships.
Contact us for a FREE QUOTE on a solar water geyser, water tank or rainwater/gray water system. South Africa now has eco-friendly insurance– another way to go green, switch to green insurance cover and reduce your carbon footprint today!