Water & Drought

Why limit car washing to weekends?

Q: What’s the rationale for limiting car washing to Saturday or Sunday? I understand limiting landscape irrigation to weekends because people forget to reset their sprinkler timers and violators are more visible and the rule more easily enforced. But it’s hard to imagine that many people wash their car more than once a week — seems like it’s a non-problem. I don’t use more water if I wash my car on Wednesday instead of Saturday or Sunday. And, like most people, I don’t wash my car once a month, let alone more than once a week. Feels like a “big brother” overreach.

– Larry McGuire, Sacramento

A: This rule applies to the City of Sacramento and its emergency measures to conserve water during the drought. On Jan. 14, the City Council mandated that residents and businesses cut consumption by at least 20 percent. The rules include limiting outdoor irrigation and car washing to weekends.

Why include car washing?

It was the council’s idea, said William Granger, Sacramento’s water conservation administrator. “The City Council thought it would be easier for enforcement (to limit car washing to Saturday or Sunday). On March 9, it switches back to the odd/even schedule.”

Sacramento focuses its conservation enforcement on the outdoors, where about 65 percent of residential water is used. Under Stage 2 water restrictions, residents are asked to limit car washing to the same days they’re allowed to water their landscapes. Right now, it’s one day on weekends.

On March 9, residents with odd-numbered addresses will be able to irrigate landscapes and wash cars on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Residents with even-numbered addresses will be restricted to Wednesdays and Sundays.

Initially, the council also mandated that residents use a bucket to wash cars, instead of a hose. But that restriction was modified; hoses are allowed if they’re equipped with a shut-off nozzle.

“Even better, use a commercial carwash,” Granger said. “These businesses recycle their water.”

And commercial carwashes are not restricted to specific “water days”; you can get the car clean whenever you want.

Submit your question for The Sacramento Bee’s water team.