Those involved in the car wash industry are ever mindful of water. It is the one resource that operators cannot do without.

Returning repeatedly to issues surrounding its use, cost, reclamation, and conservation is to be expected. In this magazine, we runan annual Water Treatment Systems Showcase, and over the course of 12 months, we dedicate editorial space to the subject on aregular basis.

As recently as this past November, Evan Porges of Modesto, CA-based Prime Shine Car Wash shared with us his company’s efforts in dealing with the drought — the worst in Californians’ memory. Going beyondthe installation of water-saving equipment, the wash chain’s measures include a reevaluation of all its procedures and co-opt theparticipation of every employee. The program also reaches out to the public, usingthe challenging situation as an educational opportunity.

In August 2008, we reported on attempts being made by T. Boone Pickens to subject water to commercial control, suggesting the possibility that prices would rise as supplies diminish and demand grows, eventually rendering water unaffordable for some. Pickens, an oilman famous for his corporate takeover bids in the ‘80s, views water as the “new oil” and was reportedly buying up water rightsin the Texas Panhandle with the intent of selling the water to cities such as Dallas,actions which would turn this resource into just another commodity.

On a macro scale the situation does not look that bleak. In a blog post at, authors Ethan Alpern and Jon Campbell write that although not limitless, America’s water resources are generally abundant. Still, to effectively manage the country’s waterresources, it’s important to know how much water is being used nationwide. To that end, the U.S. Geological Survey collects data from counties across the country every five years for a national water report.

The latest report — for the year 2010 — is most encouraging. Water usage nationwide reached its “lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years.” About 355 billion gallons of water per day were withdrawn nationwide in 2010, the authors report, a drop of 13 percent compared to 2005 figures. The positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management are credited for the improvement. Sharing credit, according to the authors, are citizens who are learning to be more water conscious and are doing their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources.

So, who is the biggest water hog? Of course, no individual user is fingered, but, collectively, thermoelectric power generators are identified as the biggest users. Even thiscategory, though, managed to shrink its consumption by 20 percent from 2005 to 2010. Irrigation, another big-time user, also managed to use less water over this time period. For the first time, though, public water usage declined even as the nation’s population grew by 4 percent. The number of people served by public-supply systems, the authors note, continue to increase, but the per capita water use declined from 100 gallons per day in 2005 to 89 gallons per day in 2010.

There can be little doubt that water conservation messages are reaching their target and, apparently, are having the desired effect. The same population that is responding positively to those messages constitutes the pool of potential car wash customers. Appeal to them with your own conservation message.