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Stormwater Utility
1026 West Broadway Ave
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Spokane, WA 99260-0170
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Aquifer-Friendly Car Wash Program

Only Rain Down the Drain - Wash Your Car Right! - Keep our Rivers, Lakes, Streams and Aquifer Clean.Clean water is important to all of us.  It's up to all of us to make it happen.  In recent years, sources of water pollution like industrial wastes from factories have been greatly reduced.  Now, most water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, fertilizers from yards and gardens, and failing septic tanks.  All these sources add up to a big pollution problem.  But each of us can do small things to help keep our water clean and that adds up to a pollution solution!

Cleaning your car the right way helps:

  • Support a healthy watershed.
  • Prevent water pollution in rivers, lakes, streams and the aquifer.
  • Set a good example for your children and your neighbors.

Why do we need clean water? 

Having clean water is of primary importance for our health and economy.  Clean water provides a healthy environment for recreational opportunities, aquatic habitat, drinking water, and adds beauty to our environment.  All of us benefit from clean water, therefore, all of us have a role in getting and keeping our lakes, rivers, streams and aquifer clean.

What's the problem with car washing?

There's no problem with washing your car.  It's just how and where you do it that's important.  Most soap contains phosphates and other chemicals that harm fish and water quality.

If you live in an urban area and you wash your car in the driveway, the soap, together with the dirt and oil washed from your car, flows into nearby storm drains which can run directly into surface or ground waters.  The phosphates from the soap can cause excess algae to grow.  Algae looks bad, smells bad, and harms water quality.  As algae decays, the process uses up oxygen in the water that fish need to survive.  Algae can also block the sunlight necessary to support healthy aquatic plant life.

How can we change our ways?

The state recommends that cities and counties help educate people in urban areas about sensible ways to wash their cars and still keep soapy water from washing into storm drains.  You can, indeed, wash your car and help keep our waters clean!   Car wash soaps don’t have to be a problem.

What will you do to help?

  • Picture of two people washing a car.Use a commercial car wash, either self-serve or machine wash.
  • Wash on lawns or other surfaces where water can seep into the ground.
  • Sell commercial car wash coupons as a fund raiser instead of actually washing cars.
  • Use a wet/dry shop vacuum to suck up excess rinse water and pour it onto a nearby lawn, landscape area or stormwater swale.
  • Or use a pump kit to send the soapy runoff to a lawn, landscape area or stormwater swale.
  • Rent a “Bay for a Day” at a self-serve car wash that has an approved disposal system.

Community Fundraiser Car Wash - Borrow an "Aquifer-Friendly Car Wash Kit"

Spokane County has "Aquifer-Friendly Car Wash Kits" which include: a storm drain protector mat, a wet/dry shop vacuum/with built-in holding tank water pump; two 50 foot garden hoses; a GFCI adapter plug; and a 100 foot extension cord -- all available for temporary loan for community car wash fundraiser events (similar to Option #2 below).   We also have laminated posters that can be used to attract passersby.  Please contact Spokane County Stormwater Utility at 509-477-3600 for details and availability.

Build Your Own Car Wash Kit

Example equipment picture of wet/dry shop vac, hoses, and bucket.Option #1:

  • Wet/dry shop vacuum: as the car wash is being conducted, designate a person to vacuum up excess rinse water as it accumulates on the ground.  Rinse water must be collected prior to entering the storm drain. Then dispose of the rinse water on a lawn area, landscaped area or stormwater swale.
  • GFCI adapter plug - ground-fault circuit Interrupter (Class A).
  • Extension cord: a 100 foot (or appropriate length) extension cord.
  • Safety Vests and Traffic Cones: orange safety vests and traffic cones are necessary when working in or near traffic.

Option #2:

  • Storm drain protective mat: place a heavy protective mat over the storm drain to prevent soapy water from entering. 
  • Wet/dry shop vacuum: after the water is allowed to pool it can then be vacuumed up with the shop vacuum and pumped through a garden hose or poured onto a lawn, landscape area, or stormwater swale.
  • Garden hose (optional): Some shop vacuums are available with a built in water pump that can continually pump water from the shop vacuum container through a garden hose as water is being vacuumed up.  
  • GFCI adapter plug:  Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (Class A).
  • Extension cord: a 100 foot (or appropriate length) extension cord.
  • Safety Vests and Traffic Cones: orange safety vests and orange traffic cones are necessary when working in or near traffic.

Most of these items can be purchased at local hardware stores. Safety items, such as road cones and vests, can be purchased from a local safety equipment supplier; check yellow pages in local phone directory.

Picture of man washing carHow to use your car wash kit (For Option #2)

  1. Locate the nearest lawn, landscape area or stormwater swale, storm drain, electrical plug in. (Locate the storm drain where the water will accumulate.)
  2. Put on traffic vests.
  3. Set up orange cones next to storm drain to alert traffic.
  4. Cover the storm drain grate with the heavy mat. Caution: be sure that the grate is completely covered.
  5. Plug in the wet/dry shop vacuum using the ground fault adapter plug and extension cord. 
  6. Use the wet/dry shop vacuum to remove pooled water around the storm drain. Make sure that one to two people are designated strictly for this task.
  7. Dispose of the rinse water on a lawn area, landscaped area or stormwater swale.
  8. Read and follow safety instructions with all equipment.

 

Download the Aquifer-Friendly Car Wash Public Participation Form and remember...You are the Solution to Stormwater Pollution!