Car wash popular despite water conservation calls

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Singapore faces its driest period since 1869. Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan has called for water conservation efforts from  homes and industries although water-rationing is not on the cards — yet.

The biggest waste of water? Car washes.

Yet cars are being washed every day. Car wash services at petrol stations said they wash 80 to 100 cars per day, per station.

The Independent Singapore surveyed 20 different car wash businesses, from petrol stations, shops to mobile car wash services. All said car wash service is heavily in demand.

Dr Balakrishnan has made it mandatory for all large water users to submit Water Efficiency Management Plans (WEMPs) from June 2015.

However small car wash centres and mobile car wash services are not affected. The initiative only refers to water consumers that use over 5,000 cu m (1.3 million gallons) a month – the equivalent of two Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water.

Punggol Shell Petrol station staff told us that they wash 80 cars on average everyday. According to the Department of Environment of Maryland in the US, a commercial car wash station uses between 50 to 60 gallons of water per vehicle, making a month’s water usage to be about 132,000 gallons (almost 500 cu m). There are 21 Shell car wash service centres in Singapore. Exxonmobil has 30 car wash service centres.

According to Punggol Shell petrol station staffs, some of these clients bring their car for a wash daily – though they are not sure of an exact figure.

Joseph Chong who owns Joseph Mobile Car Polish said that due to limited resources, they wash only 30-40 cars a day.

“I have customers who wash their cars eight times a week,” he added.

Serene Ng from Techneat Car Care said her staff wash around 100 cars a day. “Most of the time you get people who want to wash their cars once every two days.”

In a separate 20-people survey among random Singaporeans who own cars, most people wash their cars from thrice a week to once a week.

“I try not to do it [wash my motorbike]. But I know many people here who wash their cars everyday. It is such a waste,” said Shaff who lives near Henry Park Primary School.

“You can get a car wash service daily for every weekday at my HDB block for $40 a month,” said one resident who lives in Ang Mo Kio.

The National Water agency PUB just launched the ‘Go big on saving water’ campaign in conjunction with World Water Day on March 15.

PUB will be holding community programmes in 250 locations to reach over 200,000 people on water conservation efforts. One of its programmes aims to get hawkers to compete to see who uses the least amount of water.