The drought in California officially became an emergency on Friday as Gov. Jerry Brown asked the federal government to rush water to the state, ease regulations and offer financial assistance to manage the crisis. “All I can report to you is it’s not raining today and it’s not likely to rain for several weeks,” Brown said in a news conference in San Francisco, according to USA Today.
Car wash businesses, of course, are stuck in a difficult situation when droughts hit. With emergency water being trucked in from out of state, many consumers might wonder if it’s such a good idea to use water on a car wash. But while it may seem bad, a drought actually presents useful marketing opportunities, according to the International Carwash Association.
1. The first thing to do is to stay open. Car wash owners may be tempted to save face and respond to perceived pressure by closing the shop immediately. That might eliminate some short-term stress, but a closed business can’t make money. You’ll be hurting not only your own sales, but you’ll also be hurting the community with lost wages. Instead of closing, there are other steps car wash business owners can take.
2. Start educating your customers about car wash water use. “The professional car wash industry uses less than one-tenth of one percent of the daily water usage in North America (based on U.S. Geological Survey and ICA data),” the ICA says. “In any area, car washes use much less total water than restaurants, hotels and many other industries.” Owners should make a point to tell customers this information through signage, social media and other communication channels.
3. Do what you can to cut back on water use. The first thing you should do is calculate your water use. The next is to brainstorm ways to cut back. If you use high-pressure equipment or water-guzzling devices, it might be a good idea to turn it off for the duration of the drought. It might make sense to truck in water from out of the area. Or maybe even drive up sales with promotions in other areas of your business, like detailing or oil changes. Long-term, water recycling technology may be a good investment for car washes in places where drought is common. And, of course, be sure to let your customers know what you’re doing.
4. Follow all regulations to a T. If restrictions on water use are put in place, be sure to follow them closely. During a drought, folks are extra sensitive to rule breakers, and car wash businesses are automatically the prime suspects. In a worst case scenario, owners still shouldn’t close up shop; try cutting back hours instead.
5. Be proactive. Find out when city council meets, and pay them a visit. Even if they’re not discussing the drought, it’s a good public forum where you can let local leaders and engaged citizens know what you’re doing to help out. Are you trucking in water or recycling it? Take the opportunity of a drought to educate the public about your business.
“The middle of a drought is the most difficult time to make progress on improving your area’s drought response policies,” the ICA says. “But it’s not too late to get ready for the next drought.”