Dealing with Drought - Reevaluate Conservation Procedures
By Evan Porges
In January, California Governor Jerry Brown, declared the state’s drought situation as an emergency. By doing so, the governor acknowledged the dire conditions as the Golden State struggles with the least amount of rainfall in its 163-year history, reservoir levels falling, and firefighters remaining on high alert. “We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” warned Brown, who asked California residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent. “Hopefully, it will rain eventually. But in the meantime, we have to do our part.”
Front and back of the flyer that is on hand at all locations.
This declaration is a serious wakeup call that demands attention. The Central Valley of California, where Prime Shine operates 16 car wash locations, is one of the country’s most prolific farming areas. We grow crops and raise livestock valued around the world. Our cool evenings and sunny, warm days have made this region excellent for agriculture.
Ironically, the Central Valley would be a desert if it wasn’t for the foresight of geniuses generations ago who designed and built a sophisticated network of dams and aqueducts that capitalized on the region’s lush, loamy soil. We rely almost exclusively on rain and snowpack runoff to fill up our dams and replenish our aquifers. But as the state’s population has grown, we have done little to increase our water storage or transfer capabilities. After three lower-than-average rainfall years and an ever-increasing demand on this resource, we find ourselves in this drought emergency.
Prime Shine has never taken its water use for granted. From day one back in 1991, we designed and operated our car wash with conservation and eco-friendly business practices in mind. From water reclaim systems, computer controls, connections to municipal sewer systems, non-acidic and phosphate free soaps, precision nozzles, and chemistry that promote conservation, Prime Shine has built its business reputation around the concepts of saving time, money, and water. Today’s modern Prime Shine has added to these concepts and continues to find ways to save by utilizing technologies such as solar generation, LED lighting, drip irrigation, variable speed frequency drives, and maximizing the use of wastewater generated from the production of its reverse osmosis final-rinse water.
Although these best practices are something we are very proud of, the governor’s declaration forced us to reevaluate all our procedures and see if we can do even better. An action plan was developed. Prime Shine focused on internal and external factors that are in our control.
The author and a fellow employee wear the summer t-shirts to promote Prime Shine’s recycling.
Prime Shine’s service and engineering manager reviewed every application and nozzle within the car wash to determine where we could save. We reduced nozzle sizes, lowered pressures where applicable, and have literally turned off equipment in order to save. With these changes, we have maintained our quality standards while saving almost seven gallons of fresh water per vehicle.
Next, Prime Shine’s operations team members reviewed our daily activities on the front lines to see how they can do their part to save. We asked all our employees to make suggestions and we came up with some great ideas, including eliminating the hosing down of driveways and the tunnel every night to just once a week. We bought every location a leaf blower that is used to clean the property nightly instead of the water hose. Sure, there is a bit more grime left but with 16 locations, not allowing hoses to run for cleaning throughout the day adds up. We also bought all the sites large squeegees to dry the windows and walls of the tunnels each night instead of using the water hoses to rinse them. Additionally, we no longer allow our self-serve vacuum stalls to be hosed down. Instead, we practice spot cleaning with a scrub brush and a small bucket of water.
Getting the whole company to pitch in with ideas was critical to gaining employee support. And the reality is that a majority of our workforce are millennials who are a much more environmentally sensitive group and actually prefer to work for a company that cares about the environment.
I realize some of these ideas may not seem dramatic, but we believe that every drop we save will help. These internal procedure adjustments have reduced our water consumption significantly. Today, we use only about 30 gallons of fresh water per vehicle.
The author being interviewed by Good Day Sacramento.
In addition to the internal factors, Prime Shine evaluated how its water use might be perceived externally by the public — customers, public agencies, and our own employees. We felt that as a business that relies heavily on water, we should jump out and be aggressive with our story of water conservation instead of sitting on the sidelines and having to be defensive should a news or municipal agency show up unannounced at one of our locations with questions or concerns.
To help Prime Shine tell its story, we hired a public relations firm to coordinate our efforts. Unlike advertising or marketing, public relations serve to educate by utilizing typically cost-free methods to spread a message. Public relations allow you to control the content of your message. In our case, we drafted corporate communications that were distributed to local, regional, and national media including newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. Many of these media responded and ran our press releases, had us write articles, and we were even featured on a morning television show for a CBS affiliate out of Sacramento. All of this attention was free and served to educate the public on our story of washing your car at a professional car wash that practices environmentally sound water use.
To bolster the public relations effort, Prime Shine dusted off its website www.savemoneysavetimesavewater.com. It was created years before the drought to help educate the public about our business model of saving money, time, and water. The website does a nice job of demonstrating how professional car washes are the best choice for washing vehicles and links to other environmental sites that confirm this as well.
Our company’s community involvement has been specifically geared around the environment and concerns for water use and stewardship. Prime Shine sponsored Earth Day in Modesto, the Farmer’s Market in Lodi and, through the Porges Family/Prime Shine Foundation, we were proud to provide a nice donation to the Tuolumne River Trust to help educate young people on how to take care of our area’s rivers and strea
Presenting a check to the Tuolumne River Trust.
To spread our water savings message to customers at our car washes, we relied on technology and our employees. All Prime Shine locations have digital monitors at the exit of our tunnels to promote various offerings. We created a slide for these monitors that all customers see at the end of their wash reminding them about the excellent water use decision they made by using Prime Shine instead of washing their car at home. Digital monitors inside our employee lobby display similar messages.
We also took our campaign to social media. Through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we have been encouraging the water saving message to go viral. We created “Water Saving Wednesday’s” — each Wednesday, we post ideas to implement water saving in your life in ways other than car washing. We believe it is our obligation to educate the public not just about car washing, but about all the ways people can save water.
During the valley’s hot summer months, we enjoy a more casual uniform that includes T-shirts. This year, we decided to allow employees to submit their design suggestions for the shirt based on the theme of water savings. We thought the winning entry was clever and to the point: “Wash, Recycle, Repeat; saving water since 1991.”
And finally, should customers have questions about our water saving efforts, flyers (as shown on page 44) were printed and are kept on hand at all locations to offer education and the official corporate message. All of these ideas have been instrumental in helping position Prime Shine as a water saver and not a water waster.
All of us in California are hoping for a wet and snowy winter to recharge our dams and aquifers. Although I realize that “hope” is not a solid strategy for change, at this point that is all we have. All of us car washers know too well that we cannot control Mother Nature; therefore, in the face of one of this state’s worst droughts ever, Prime Shine has chosen to control that which it can. Through careful evaluation of our usage of water and the ways in which we communicate our message of water savings, Prime Shine has taken an aggressive and proactive stance during this current challenge. We believe this is the most responsible reaction to the governor’s drought declaration for us and all our fellow California car wash companies.
The lift gate of Prime Shine’s chemical distribution truck also helps spread the word.
Evan Porges is president of Prime Shine Car Wash based in Modesto, CA. With 16 locations, it is the state’s largest independently owned car wash company. Prime Shine offers an affordable, high-quality wash using state-of-the-art water conservation systems. For more, visit www.primeshine.com or www.savemoneysavetimesavewater.com.