Reports of the driest autumn since records began have once again highlighted the threat of potential water shortages. The volatility of the world's weather patterns has made people concentrate on finding ways to conserve precious resources and not simply flush water away after it has been used once for washing. Water-intensive activities are particularly under scrutiny and that's where bus, coach and commercial vehicle operators face a challenge: how to keep their vehicles clean without wasting much water.
On the one hand they face a commercial imperative - they need to present a professional image at all times in order to attract more customers, whether these are fare-paying passengers or companies wanting goods transported. Having a sparklingly clean exterior, with clearly visible company logos or, in the case of many buses, revenue-generating advertising banners, is part of that commercial offering. On the other hand, using too much water is not only bad for the environment, it can add considerably to a company's costs, with charges for extra water used as well as bills for disposing of the waste water. So it's not surprising that an increasing number of fleet managers are investing in water recycling systems that allow them to use water again and again - and reduce vehicle washing costs by as much as 80% into the bargain.
Andy Barracliffe, director of Britannia Washing Systems, which produces a range of water reclamation and recycling systems, said: “The popularity of water recycling systems has never been higher. Models available today are sophisticated enough to produce clean recycled water of sufficient quality to be used in rinsing, as well as in washing, so substantial savings can be made. Not only does it save money on running costs, a well-designed water recycling system can mean the difference between washing your vehicles or not during times of drought when water restrictions are in place.”
Some fleet managers are going even further and installing rainwater harvesting systems to capture free water but Barracliffe warned that this solution is not for everyone: “Clearly some coach and lorry depots have more scope for rainwater harvesting than others, depending upon the size of the site and scale of the roof space from which water can be gathered. Operators need to do their sums first before installing a rainwater harvesting system. Urban bus depots with large garages are obviously better candidates for rainwater harvesting than lorry parks with few buildings. In the right circumstances, of course, they make the ideal addition to a washing system, reducing even further the need to use water from the mains. We have noticed a huge step change in the past 18 months in orders for rainwater harvesting to supplement water recycling systems.”